GUWAHATI: A whopping 72 candidates of Nagaland’s urban local bodies elections, being held after a gap of 10 years and scheduled for February 1, withdrew their nominations on the last day of withdrawal of nominations on Tuesday. With this, altogether 140 candidates have pulled out of the polls. There are now 395 candidates in the fray for elections to 26 town and municipal councils. Six others recorded nil nomination.
According to sources, the candidates withdrawing nominations belonged to all political parties. Naga People’s Front (NPF) and BJP, which are constituents of ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland, had warned of disciplinary action in the event of withdrawal of nominations but that could not prevent the candidates from withdrawing. The BJP had, in fact, issued “whip” to them to not withdraw. Opposition Congress wants the government to postpone the polls but it did not issue any such directive to its candidates.
The party fielded the lowest number of candidates. The large number of withdrawal of nominations by the candidates was due to their fear of being excommunicated from their communities. Some male-dominated powerful tribal organisations had issued diktats to the candidates asking them to withdraw from the polls or face excommunication from their communities. These oragnisations are boycotting the polls in protest against the State government’s decision to reserve 33% seats for women in civic bodies. The Nagas are governed by customary laws, which are protected under Article 371(A) of the Constitution.
The tribal organisations argue that quota will infringe upon the Article as there is nothing called reservation under the Naga customary laws. Initially, their protest was against quota for women but as the government stuck to its guns by asserting that it would go ahead with the polls, they decided to boycott the polls altogether. Given the protests and the power and authority the tribal bodies wield, there is a perception that many civic bodies will record nil voter turnout on the day of polling.