GUWAHATI: Candidates of Nagaland’s urban local bodies (ULBs) elections, scheduled for February 1, find themselves caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.
The all-powerful tribal bodies in the State, which are opposed to State government’s decision to reserve 33% seats for women in civic bodies, have asked them to withdraw nomination or face excommunication from their communities while the Naga People’s Front (NPF), which fielded the highest number of candidates, has asked its candidates not to pull out or face action.
Faced with “threats and intimidations”, allegedly issued by the tribal organisations, 53 candidates, belonging to all political parties, withdrew their nominations till Saturday. Monday is the last day for withdrawal of nomination and more candidates are likely to follow suit. As of now, 482 candidates are in the fray in 26 of the 32 town and municipal councils. No nomination was filed in six civic bodies.
Several candidates of different tribes and political parties have gone into hiding as they were being “hunted” by the apex organisation of their respective tribe.
“Yes, many of us have moved to safer places. The apex organisations of our tribes
have summoned us through third parties to give it in writing that we won’t contest the polls. My party, NPF, has directed all its candidates not to withdraw or face action. We are at a loss,” a candidate, who refused to give her name, told Express.
In “man’s world” Nagaland, the tribal bodies of various tribes have given a call for boycott of the polls protesting quota for the eves. The Nagas are governed by centuries-old customary laws, which are protected under Article 371(A)
of the Constitution. The tribal organisations argue that quota will infringe upon the Article.
Nagaland has never elected a woman to its legislative Assembly since Statehood in 1963. The late Rano M Shaiza is its only woman MP, who was elected to Lok Sabha in 1977.
The Congress initially had no qualms about quota but given the protests against it, the party has urged the government to postpone the polls. It has not, however, asked its candidates to withdraw.
NPF and BJP, which are allies and constituents in ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland, insist that government should go ahead with the polls. While NPF has directed its candidates not to withdraw, BJP has not yet issued any such directive.
“NPF issued tickets to its members after administering a pledge. Therefore, no NPF candidate should withdraw. Stern disciplinary action shall be initiated against those who withdraw their nomination papers,” the party warned.