DIMAPUR (NAGALAND): Nagaland is divided on holding the February 27 Assembly elections. For the past few weeks, extremist groups and various tribal organisations have spoken in one voice for solution of the seven-decade-old Naga political problem before elections. If the gazette notification is issued on Wednesday by the Election Commission of India, tribal organisations will call a general strike in Nagaland on February 1.
On eve of the notification, there is, however, a large section of people out on the streets who do not want to miss this celebration of democracy. At least one political party, the BJP, seems ready to contest polls as Union minister Kiren Rijiju tweeted: “…Election boycott is not the solution…We believe that peaceful election in Nagaland will facilitate the ongoing peace talks and strengthen our commitment (to peace process)”.
The BJP suspended at least one of the two members who on Monday had signed an undertaking in Kohima committing that the party or its members will not contest the polls. It confirms the BJP’s plans and fuels public sentiment.
“I am very sure some people will file their nominations,” says Hokuto Sema, a self-employed 28-year-old from Dimapur. “Election is needed; it is good for the Nagas. The BJP and the NDPP (Nagaland Democratic People’s Party) are doing well and if there is a change of guard, it will bring some development and changes,” says Hokuto.
The umbrella body “Core Committee of Nagaland Tribal Hohos and Civil Organisations” (CCNTHCO) sent a team to New Delhi on Tuesday to put forth their views. The CCNTHCO fears that if the notification is issued and people file nominations, then the extremist groups which are for now united could be again divided.
The Centre is in talks with the Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) since the 1997 ceasefire. But other insurgent factions have been opposing talks with NSCN-IM alone. After efforts, there has been a general agreement reached on finding a settlement.
Civil society groups feel an election will be a distraction. But the Indian democratic process has left a deep imprint since statehood in 1963.
“We think there should be elections as well as solution,” said Kapa Naga. “Why do you need to cancel election for a solution? I do not mind if there is solution after election, we need both,” he insisted.
It is difficult to reckon whether a majority wants polls or not but election fever is palpable in Nagaland.
Businessman Antony Mao has a firm take on the settlement to the Naga problem. “We need solution. If there is election, then a solution will be delayed by five years,” says Antony, who, at the same time, felt that if some people file nominations then elections may be unavoidable.
Politics and elections arouse a lot of interests and excitements in Nagaland. That is one more reason why NGOs and extremist groups want to ensure no one files a nomination. Political parties and their candidates concede they are under pressure from people’s groups.
In a related development, nine MLAs of ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF) have resigned from the Assembly “in response to Nagas for Solution”. They are likely to join the newly-floated NDPP and bet on three-time former chief minister Neiphiu Rio.
The MLAs include the former CM’s loyalists like his brother Zhaleo Rio, Noke Wangnao and Niky Kire. Whatever may be the challenges political parties have kept their lists of nominees ready, except for a few.
The Congress on Tuesday accused the NPF and the BJP of “treachery” and pushing the state towards a political uncertainty. A severely-eroded Congress in the state has been eager to boycott the polls.