NLA 2016: No democracy without an opposition?

If year 2016 is any indicator in the Nagaland political landscape, 2017 may see the rise of autocratic tendencies



Morung Express News
Dimapur | December 29


A portent to what can be expected in 2017 in the Nagaland political landscape, the year 2016 witnessed the damage an opposition-less government can inflict on democracy.


In an indication of what a government with mute lawmakers is like; the 2016 NLA sessions, besides the passing of some government bills which were also approved unanimously and in no time, saw the 60 legislators muffled with nothing to question or discuss.


At the two day monsoon session of the 12th Nagaland Legislative Assembly held from July 12-14, the first day lasted 15 minutes and 34 minutes on the second day.


Inside the Assembly, Nagaland state seemed a blissful place as reflected by images of sleepy legislators leisurely sprawled on their chairs, while on the ground; innumerable issues of pertinence continue to bog down citizens without respite, for instance: corruption, backdoor appointments, fuel adulteration scam, non-payment of salaries, inter-state border issues.


Queried on the short duration of the Assembly, the Chief Minister during a press conference had casually brushed it aside with the assertion that the government “fortunately had no opposition” and claimed that ‘assembly or the parliament consume time only in question hour’ or ‘in cases of controversy in passing or discussion of bills.’


“Here, fortunately we have no opposition. We have asked MLAs to put question if they want clarification. When they don’t put question the government cannot raise the question,” Zeliang was quoted to have stated.


This is not the first time that the lawmakers at the NLA chose to remain mute. In 2015, the 10th session of the 12th NLA lasted only 30 minutes. The last day of the 11th session of the 12th NLA on March 2016 lasted 13 minutes.


Subsequently, at the winter session of the 14th session of the 12th NLA which began from November 24, 2016, the first day got over in 27 minutes. The session started at 9:30 and ended by 9:57AM.


The only semblance of democracy was exhibited on the last day of the NLA winter session when a lone Independent MLA staged a walkout to oppose the revoking of a 2012 resolution exempting Nagaland from the application of Article 243T of Part IX A of the Constitution of India.


The genesis to this turn of events pointing to the emergence of a suspiciously autocratic government in the Nagaland political landscape can be linked with the February 5, 2015 “Vote of Confidence” where all 60 legislators of the NLA including eight Congress MLAs voted in favor of TR Zeliang. The eight Congress MLAs then went to merged with the NPF led DAN to pave way for what is now an opposition-less government.


At that time, Zeliang had termed the development as “historic” and rejoiced that it will strengthen the effort to find solution to the Naga Political problem- an issue that has been exploited by all parties during elections.


Leaving the rhetoric coming from the political turf aside, an opposition-less government means a threat to the principle of democratic checks and balances.


It brings to mind the words of political scientists that in an opposition-less government, those in power will try to push through all legislation that fits their ideology. There would be no one to ask questions, in the Assembly or the Parliament.


Even the recent whip issued by the NPF chief whip stifling its legislators to “vote against any motion by Independent members against the DAN government” can be interpreted as a tendency to put a gag on freedom of expression and another indication that the present government is being ruled under a thumb of a handful.


Bizarrely, the whip also directed that the Chief Minister, the leader of the house will give indication whether the statement made by independent MLA is favorable or inimical to the government.


The use of police force, water cannons and tear gas shells reportedly under the direction of the State Government to quell peaceful demonstrations like the Nagaland Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan teachers protesting against non-payment of their salaries, or the ACAUT rally against corruption are all serious indications of the ruling Nagaland government shying away from democratic principles and donning the role of a “police state.”