The suspense over the Nagaland elections is finally over, with candidates filing their papers before nominations came to a close on Wednesday. There was much uncertainty over the elections after 11 parties, including the ruling Naga People’s Front and national parties such as the BJP and Congress, decided to boycott the elections to be held on February 27.
They were acting at the behest of tribal leaders and civil society groups and demanded that the Centre first settle the Naga issue, for which the Centre and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim-IM signed a “historic” framework agreement in 2015 but has since not made much progress. What perhaps triggered the change of heart among parties was the lukewarm response to the statewide bandh called against the election. The common people in Nagaland are looking forward to the polls and they called the bluff of the tribal leaders and civil society groups.
Linking the Naga political solution to the election, clearly at the behest of some insurgent groups, was always flawed. Firstly, the talks to end the Naga political problem are between the NSCN-IM and the Centre. And neither the state government nor its people have anything to do with the attempts to settle the problem. In fact, when the agreement was signed, the Nagaland government didn’t even have a clue. Secondly, holding of elections is a constitutional requirement that cannot be stalled.
If under duress none of the parties had fielded their candidates, then the Centre would have been forced to impose President’s rule. Thirdly, and most importantly, there can be no better medium of expression of the will of the people than elections. Despite threats of violence from insurgent organisations, there was 87 per cent and 90 per cent turnout in the 2014 Lok Sabha election and 2013 state Assembly polls. This clearly shows the Nagas today firmly believe in the democratic process and that a boycott of elections would not have gone down well with them. Let the democratic carnival begin.