Seven political parties in the northeastern states have decided to forge a strategic alliance, not led by either the Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to pursue peace, progress and development of the region.
Nationalist Congress Party leader and former Lok Sabha speaker Purno A. Sangma announced the formation of North East Democratic Forum (NEDF) after meeting leaders of the seven parties in Guwahati.
“We have agreed to formally launch the NEDF in Guwahati, Assam, sometime in March,” Sangma told journalists.
The birth of NEDF is significant in the wake of the general elections in Assam scheduled in April. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has exuded confidence that the ruling Congress will retain power.
Sangma said the formation of the front was necessary for national and regional parties, not led by the Congress, to collectively pursue the overall interest of the region and work closely with the central government to strengthen centre-state relations.
“It is very necessary for us like-minded parties to come together and to raise a common voice here (at the central government). All regional parties from the region must stand united for the peace and development of the region,” stated Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio.
Rio said he will speak to leaders of other regional parties from the region who were not present at Sunday’s meeting.
“The front will strive to protect the interests and mandate of the minorities, which has time and again been suppressed in a country that is globally acknowledged as the world’s largest democracy,” the Naga People’s Forum strongman said.
Assam’s Bodoland People’s Front and Meghalaya’s United Democratic Party, Hill State People’s Democratic Party and Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement, supporting the Congress government in both the states, did not attend the meeting.
Former Assam chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta said the NEDF platform would help the region if a common voice is raised in New Delhi.
The meeting was attended by Nagaland Chief Minister Nephiu Rio of the Naga People’s Forum, Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling of Sikkim Democratic Forum, former Assam chief Minister and Asom Gana Parishad leader Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, former Mizoram chief minister and Mizo National Front leader Pu Zoramthanga, Manipur People’s Party president N.C. Luwang, and Toko Sheatel, president of the Assam unit of the Trinamool Congress.