Kohima: Senior Naga People's Front (NPF) leader and Minister T.R. Zeliang will be the next Nagaland chief minister replacing Neiphiu Rio, a party leader said Wednesday.
"They (NPF legislators) have chosen Zeliang as chief minister after Noke Wangnao (public health engineering minister) withdrew himself from the race (for the post of chief minister)," Rio told IANS.
"Wangnao's decision will pave way for a smooth transition and will ensure unity of the party to provide a stable government to work towards economic development and achieving permanent peace," the chief minister said.
The swearing-in of Zeliang is likely to take place after the formation of the new government at the centre.
Zeliang, 62, a confidant of Rio, is currently the planning and co-ordination minister in the Rio-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland coalition, comprising the Nationalist Congress Party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the JD-(U) and independent legislators.
In the 60-member Nagaland assembly, the NPF has 38 members, the NCP four, the BJP and the Janata Dal (United) have two members each, while there are eight independent legislators. The opposition Congress has eight legislators.
"I am ready to accept to take the responsibility as chief minister to ensure coherence and unity in the NPF in the interest of the state," Zeliang said.
Exuding confidence that Zeliang will provide good governance to all sections of people, Rio promised the NPF and all legislators of the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland of his fullest cooperation.
Wangnao said he opted out from the race in the greater interest of the party, the stability of the government and also in the larger interest of the people of the state.
"I hope my withdrawal will pave way for a smooth transition of power...," he said.