Polls in Nagaland widen ‘gulf’ : Konyak Union threatens to expel people who file nomination

The announcement of elections in Nagaland has evoked strong reactions from various tribal groups and civil society leaders.

The Konyak Union, a key group of Konyak tribe in Mon district in Eastern Nagaland, on Wednesday threatened to “permanently expel” those individuals filing nominations to participate in the ensuing assembly elections.

As per the schedule announced by the Election Commission on Wednesday, January 18, Nagaland goes to voting on February 27 along with Meghalaya.

CEC Rajiv Kumar said that Tripura will go for polls on February 16 and counting of votes for all three states will take place on March 2.

On the other hand, within four days of issuing a joint statement with the umbrella body, NNPG, the NSCN-IM said today — “The Nagas do not acknowledge any agreements signed under the Indian Constitution”.

The NSCN-IM statement issued on Wednesday, January 18, negates the January 14 so-called joint statement and the ‘pledge’ to work together.

On January 14, the joint statement signed by NSCN-IM chairman Q Tuccu and N Kitovi Zhimomi had declared “unconditional commitment to collaborate on the basis of our respective agreements (Framework Agreement of 2015 and the Agreed Position of 2017) for the resolution of the Naga historical and political rights with Govt of India”.

In 1998, the NSCN-IM had favoured a boycott of polls but this year it has not said anything publicly. But the group allegedly has a nexus with some state politicians.

The Eastern Nagaland Students Federation has asked any ‘official/office bearer/member of ENSF, Federating units and its units ‘holding any designated post to resign or withdraw from any political entity and affiliation’ at the earliest.

The term of Legislative Assemblies of three states – Nagaland, Meghalaya and Tripura are due to expire on March 12, March 15 and March 22, 2023, respectively. Elections will be held for all 60 assembly segments in all three states.

The BJP is in power in all three states. It heads the coalition government in Tripura while it shares power with regional partners NDPP and NPF in Nagaland and Conrad Sangma-led NPP in Meghalaya.

The CEC announced that as many as 376 polling stations across the three states will be managed by women staff and even security will be catered to by women personnel.

In Nagaland and Meghalaya, the last day of filing nominations is February 7 while in Tripura, it will be January 30. Counting of votes takes place in all three states on March 2.

In Meghalaya, both NPP and BJP are going to contest the polls separately. In Nagaland, BJP has agreed to play second fiddle and contest only 20 candidates as against 40 by the NDPP in the 60-member assembly.

Analysts say many in these north eastern Christian dominant states such as Nagaland and Meghalaya will prefer BJP hoping to accelerate development. In fact, the Nagaland unit leaders have repeatedly urged the party high command to review the 20-40 arrangements.

The just concluded polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh and this year’s elections in three northeastern states and also Mizoram and later in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana and also in Karnataka will set the ball rolling for 2024 general elections.

In Tripura, which was once a communist forte, the saffron party will hope for an easier contest with rivals Congress and CPI-M marginalised.

A new tribal-based party, however, may make a difference in about 20 seats. The BJP’s mega promise in the northeast is to provide a corruption-free government focused on people’s socio economic development.

The hilly state of Meghalaya has nearly 3 million people with 75 per cent Christian population.

The NPP of Conrad Sangma in Meghalaya is faced with an anti incumbency and a series of corruption allegations.

The Congress was in power for 15 years till it was ousted in 2018; but the grand old party has lost veterans such as Mukul Sangma to Trinamool and the party base has crumbled too.

Christians, who make up 90 per cent of Nagaland’s 1.95 million people, in 2018 showed preference to the BJP when the party could win 12 seats out of 20 seats it fought. In fact, BJP’s strike rate was better than NDPP led by incumbent Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio. The NDPP had contested 40 but could win only 18 seats.

The Central Nagaland region comprising 25 seats and especially Mokokchung district is at present witnessing a pro-saffron wave even for this year’s polls.

However, the announcement of poll schedules will be shocking for a large section of civil society in Nagaland and also pro-Solution NNPG.

Now that the moral code of conduct will come into play in Nagaland and two other states, there could be issues about demand for a separate state in Eastern Nagaland as despite talks being held the centre may not be able to make any policy announcement.

There are as many as 20 assembly seats in the Eastern Nagaland region and the influential Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) had earlier threatened to boycott the polls in their region.

(Nirendra Dev is a New Delhi-based journalist. He is also author of books, ‘The Talking Guns: North East India’ and ‘Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth’. Views are personal)

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