|T.R. Zeliang congratulates chief minister Shürhozelie Liezietsu in Kohima on Monday. Telegraph picture|
UMANAND JAISWAL, TT, Guwahati, Feb. 21: The Shürhozelie Liezietsu ministry will by and large resemble that of his predecessor and outgoing chief minister T.R. Zeliang.
Nagaland chief minister-designate Shürhozelie told The Telegraph this evening that he would take oath of office along with his ministerial colleagues tomorrow morning at the Raj Bhavan in Kohima.
The size of the Nagaland ministry is 12, including the chief minister, and the term of the present Naga People's Front (NPF)-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) state government ends in February 2018.
Hinting at continuity, the 81-year-old Shürhozelie said he would try to maintain "status quo as far as the ministry" was concerned because "we have only 10-11 months for the next Assembly elections. We will be submitting the list to Raj Bhavan soon, but l am trying for status quo vis-a-vis the ministry owing to the prevailing situation and the ensuing polls. My first priority is to ensure normalcy."
Governor P.B. Acharya told this correspondent that Raj Bhavan was set for the swearing-in of the chief minister and his ministers. He was expecting the list of those to be sworn in only tomorrow morning.
Those in the know ruled out largescale tinkering because a former eight-time MLA Shürhozelie and Zeliang, who quit on Sunday evening, share very cordial ties and have been through thick and thin to ensure smooth-sailing of the NPF and the DAN coalition government in the state.
"From what we have seen of them, nothing will change in the future. At 81, he has no political or personal ambitions, the reason he did not contest the 2013 polls. He will do what is good for the state and NPF unity," an NPF member said.
The camaraderie between the outgoing chief minister and Shürhozelie was also seen during the meetings for the smooth transition of power yesterday, he added.
While Zeliang had praised Shürhozelie for being the "backbone" of the DAN government, the chief minister-designate returned the compliment in his acceptance speech, thanking Zeliang for making the "supreme sacrifice." He said Zeliang had vacated his chair to "save" the Naga people from further turmoil and "I want all to recognise this sacrifice". Zeliang, who became chief minister in May 2014, had to step down because of the unending protests against the holding of the February 1 urban local body polls with 33 per cent reservation for women. The protesters bayed on his resignation following the death of two persons in the January 31 police firing at Dimapur.
The NTAC, which spearheaded the protest along with the Joint Coordination Committee, this evening thanked the people for supporting their movement to get the polls cancelled and Zeliang out of office.
Hours before his swearing-in, Shürhozelie made a significant move by revoking the suspension of MLA Imkong L. Imchen after he tendered an unconditional apology for his "anti-party activities" today. Imkong was suspended in April 2014. However, there was no word on revocation of suspension of former chief minister and sitting MP Neiphiu Rio, who was in the race for the top post before the scales tilted decisively in Shurhozelie's favour yesterday.