The crucial meeting of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) , which was convened to work out the framework for creating a region wide network of like-minded non-Congress parties, today resolved to have a Congress-mukt northeast, which would be replaced by the development driven governance of the NDA.
The meeting was held at Guwahati and was chaired by BJP National General Secretary and North East in-charge Ram Madhav and also attended by Chief Minister Assam Sarbananda Sonowal, CM Nagaland TR Zeliang, Assam Minister and NEDA Convenor Hemanta Biswa Sarma,former Mizoram CM and President of the Mizo National Front Zoramthanga, Assam Minister and AGP President Atul Bora, MP and National President of the National People’s Party Conrad Sangma, President Bodo People’s Front Hangrama Mohilary, MLA and Working President UDP Paul Lyngdoh and Ranoj Pegu President Ganashakti.
Taking part in the deliberations, Chief Minister Kalikho Pul expressed that NEDA constituted of 2 core ideologies. The first is the emergence of a non-Congress political leadership in the northeast and the other being the idea of coordination. These two together have a lot of potential in the context of the region, he said.“Since the region does not have uniform aspirations, such a forum is critical and will emerge as a major coordination platform to jointly address the issues that confront us all”.
Underlining the political need for a viable alternative to the Congress, as well as the developmental and strategic importance of the northeast, the leaders of about a dozen regional parties agreed to work on consolidating the strength of these parties and bringing even smaller regional parties into the NEDA umbrella. This would be concretized further with the first Convention of the NEDA proposed on 13 July at Guwahati.
“Regional political parties are often seen as having very little potential of extending their scope and ideology beyond our States and our regions. That is where I think that the NEDA is vastly different. Because of the fact that the present government, under the leadership of Narendra Modiji, has been very keen on protecting the idea and spirit of federalism, I think that itself gives NEDA the advantage of being regional in character but national in outlook. I am confident that working within the framework of the NEDA, we will be able to converge our regional and State aspirations seamlessly with national goals,” Pul said.
For this, he stressed that it was essential that the BJP-spearheaded NEDA must offer 3 clear alternatives- a respect for federalism, access to party leaders and quick decision-making. Outlining how, in the earlier Congress governments, Chief Ministers of States would need to wait for days for an appointment with a Central leader or Minister, he compared that to the scenario today when there was an ease of access, with Central Ministers and high level central Govt officials visiting the region regularly.
Initiating a discussion on the development scenario and the gradual decline in the resource allocation into the Non Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR) for the Ministry of Development of the North East Region (DONER) and the North Eastern Council (NEC), Pul proposed that an appeal be made to the Prime Minister to make budgetary provisions for the 10% of funds to be deposited directly with the Ministry of DONER. The forum endorsed his proposal and consequently submitted a joint memorandum to the Prime Minister, which also asked for greater autonomy and resource allocation to the NEC, through the BJP National General Secretary Ram Madhav. He assured the house that the matter would be taken up and the necessary directives issued at the earliest.
The petition, signed by all the leaders of the NEDA stated that at a time when the fund allocations to the Ministry of DONER and the NEC should have increased with corresponding rise in cost index, it is ironic that it has stagnated for the last 6-7 years. This has greatly impacted the rate of growth of the infrastructure and economies of the northeastern states. Sanctioned and ongoing projects are lying incomplete and retained projects are yet to take off due to the paucity of funds.
It called for greater empowerment of the Ministry of DONER and the NEC to serve as an effective vehicle for transferring resources and capacities to the northeastern states.
The forum also deliberated on the significance of the NEDA in relation to the Act East Policy thrust of the Prime Minister and emphasized that a platform like NEDA would be key to its success. Since the Policy looks at creating a corridor of commerce, trade and culture through the northeast and into the larger South East-Asian regions, it will be critical that all the States in the region think and act as one. Surrounded as it is by 5 countries, the role of the NEDA is consolidating thoughts and action could be vital.
“The strategic importance of the states in this region, whether as a buffer to the claims on our territory by China or as a corridor to the economies and markets of South East Asian nations as part of the Act East Policy, need hardly be underlined. And therefore, the role of the NEDA in converging aspirations and action would well prove to be a game-changer”, Pul said.