GUWAHATI: As speculated, political parties in Nagaland will boycott the February 27 Assembly elections in the state.
They are miffed that the Centre has not resolved the seven-decade-old Naga political problem vis-à-vis Naga insurgency issue despite a chorus by the Nagas at large to resolve the issue before elections.
Nagaland has 11 political parties – both national and regional – and they all on Monday decided to not field candidates in the polls. The decision was made, in the presence of leaders of several influential tribal organisations, at an all-party meeting in state capital Kohima.
After the meeting, the political parties issued a joint declaration asserting their position on the polls.
The declaration signed by the leaders of political parties stated: “We firmly believe that it is expedient for all the political parties, both national and regional, to come together in the greater interest of the state in solidarity with the call (of) ‘solution before election’ and defer the elections to the 13th Nagaland Legislative Assembly and allow the Naga political process to reach its logical conclusion by giving space and time to the negotiating groups to bring out an early solution.
“And, therefore, we the undersigned on behalf of all the political parties and the intending candidates have, in compliance with the wishes of the people, decided not to go ahead with the issuance of party tickets or filing of nominations.
“This declaration has been made in the presence of apex tribal hohos (bodies) and civil society organisations."
The political parties are Naga People’s Front (NPF), which is a major constituent of ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN), BJP, Congress, Nagaland Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, National People’s Party, United Naga Democratic Party, Nagaland Democratic People’s Party, Nationalist Congress Party, Lok Janshakti Party and Janata Dal (United).
The development comes days after the Naga Hoho, which is the state’s apex tribal organisation, warned that it would not “allow the elections”.
Its president Chuba Ozukum told The New Indian Express on Monday that the Nagas had virtually run out of patience in seeking the settlement of the vexed “Naga issue”.
“The political parties said they are with the Nagas…This (boycott of polls) was our last resort as we had no other option. For how many years will the Nagas be under such an uncertainty? India has to be serious. It should not play with us any longer. It’s been 70 years that we have been fighting for our rights. It’s no joke. The NSCN-IM (Isak-Muivah faction of insurgent group National Socialist Council of Nagaland) has been holding peace parleys (with the Centre) for 21 years. Are 21 years not enough to arrive at a decision?” Ozukum, who is also the co-convenor of a Core Committee comprising tribal bodies and organisations and was formed to pursue the issue, said.
Recent assertions by central leaders, including Centre’s interlocutor in the Naga peace talks RN Ravi, had made the Nagas optimistic. They believed the issue would be finally resolved before elections. The optimism, however, soon turned into pessimism when the Election Commission announced the poll schedule. The Nagas fear that the issue will not be resolved if the polls are held as per schedule since the elected MLAs may not necessarily step down midway in their term to facilitate an alternative arrangement that has to be put in place in the aftermath of the settlement of the issue.
It is in the light of this that for the past few months, the Nagas as a whole have been demanding “solution before election”. The state Assembly had also passed a resolution last year seeking the settlement before the polls.
The NSCN-IM has been spearheading the peace talks for 21 years following its signing of a ceasefire agreement with the Centre in 1997. Six other insurgent groups came on board last year. But the much-cherished solution continues to elude the Nagas.
If the political parties stay away from the polls as decided, it will lead to a Constitutional crisis which will necessitate the imposition of President’s rule.
In 1998, Assembly elections in the state were boycotted by Naga Hoho, Naga Students’ Federation and NSCN-IM but the then ruling Congress, besides some Independent candidates, contested. The Congress grabbed 53 of the 60 seats while the remaining seven seats went to the Independents.