Love it or hate it, BJP has sharply divided opinion in Nagaland

BJP’s push into state meets pushback by many groups to thwart saffron party’s plans of doing well in the upcoming election on February 27 at any cost.

Published: 23rd February 2018 06:26 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd February 2018 06:34 AM   |  A+A-

A BJP supporter sports a Narendra Modi mask during a campaign rally of the Prime Minister at Kohima in Nagaland on Thursday. | PTI

Express News Service

KOHIMA: Asanu Vitsu, 24, who works as a shop assistant in the State capital’s main market is not interested in the elections to be held on February 27, as he thinks all political parties reek of corruption. But he is clear on one thing, that the Bharatiya Janata Party should be prevented from doing well at any cost in the polls.

“If the BJP comes to power, they will impose their agenda on us. Beef will be banned and our religion will be under threat,” he said.

Vitsu’s view contrasts sharply with that of Akheiyo Lotha of Longsa village in Wokha district. Lotha served in the Assam Regiment and even served in Kashmir. He has no fear of the BJP. “There is a campaign to smear the BJP’s image but it is a nationalist party,” he said.

Like it or hate it, the BJP has sharply divided opinion here and not a day passes when it is not in the news here. If it is Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju assuring voters that his party was not anti-Christian as is being made out to be, there are others such as the Nagaland Joint Christian Forum which ridicule it for its promise of a free trip to Jerusalem for senior citizens.

In the 2013 election the BJP won only one seat out of 60 and got just 1.53 per cent of vote share. This time it has fielded 20 candidates and pulled out all stops to make inroads into Nagaland. Party general secretary Ram Madhav and his core team have been stationed here for over a month and many top leaders have campaigned vigorously.

The party has also been boosted by some top leaders joining its ranks. J Patton, the State’s Home Minister in the outgoing government, left the ruling Naga People’s Front to join it. The BJP has also roped in K L Chishi, a former Chief Minister.

But the BJP’s opponents, from political adversaries to civil society groups, are trying equally hard to stop its march. Recently the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) gave a call to beware of communal forces and urged voters to exercise their right judiciously.

Although it didn’t name any party, it was clear that the church meant the BJP. “We said don’t vote for a party that is against Christian principles, we didn’t say don’t vote for the BJP,” said Reverend Mar Atsongchanger of the Ao Baptist Church Association, that’s part of the NBCC.

“The promise of a visit to Jerusalem is a pleasure trip, not a pilgrimage. This is a mockery of the Christian faith,” he added.

Chuba Ozukum, the president of the Naga Ho Ho, the apex body of all tribes, is also concerned at the BJP’s appeal. “It is not good for Nagaland,” he said, but was of the opinion that only some sections were in BJP’s favour. “Only some Hindus in Dimapur and the youth are supporting BJP,” he claimed.

State BJP general secretary Eduzu Theluo dismissed fears of his party. “We are the only party that can bring development and a solution to the Naga political issue,” he said.

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