Nagaland’s ruling Naga People’s Front is open to a political alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party as long as the latter does not try to “dominate” matters related to culture and religion, Chief Minister TR Zeliang said, The Indian Express reported.

Zeliang was speaking on the sidelines of an election rally in the state capital Kohima. The Naga People’s Front and the BJP were allies in the state for 15 years until the BJP decided to tie up with the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party ahead of the February 27 Assembly elections in the state. The NPF is now an ally of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance only outside the state.

“As a political party, we have an alliance with the BJP, and we welcome the alliance in terms of governance system,” Zeliang told The Indian Express. He said there was “no difference” between the BJP and the NPF, but “if they try to dominate culture and religion, it is the wrong agenda and is the wrong concept”.

Zeliang kept the doors open for an alliance, saying, “I don’t think they should do that (impose on culture and religion) and we believe that our alliance will continue.” He said there was still “trust between the two parties”, referring to how he has a BJP adviser and a BJP minister in his cabinet, The Times of India reported.

The chief minister’s comments follow a warning from the Nagaland Baptist Church Council last week against the BJP’s imposition of Hindu values in a state where more than 90% of the population is Christian.

The BJP, too, appeared to be ready to ally with the NPF. The BJP’s state chief Visasolie Lhoungu told The Times of India, “We have not severed ties with NPF and the door is still open for them.”

Both NPF and BJP said the alliance broke over differences in the seat-sharing agreement.

“They wanted to impose the seat-sharing agreement,” Zeliang said. “I told them we can have an alliance but not a seat-sharing agreement.” He said the BJP asked for 15 seats, which the NPF did not agree to.

Lhoungu said the BJP’s “first preference” was the NPF, but they “found it difficult even to share 10 seats”. Lhoungu said the NDPP was willing to give the BJP 20 seats.