As many as eleven political parties in Nagaland decided not to issue party tickets or file nominations for the February 27, 2018 Assembly elections, to press for early solution to the seven-decade-old Naga insurgency issue before the polls. They also claimed that in doing so, they do not want to jeopardize Prime Minister’s desire for peace.
Earlier, Nagaland Health and Family Welfare Minister Imkong Imchen on January 9, 2018, a day after the announcement of Poll date by Election Commissioner of India has extended his support to the demand of various Naga pressure groups to defer the upcoming Assembly Elections in order to facilitate a solution to the seven-decade-old Naga insurgency.
Imchen denied that this action is an act of ‘boycotting’ the election, since it was only a proposal to the central government to defer the election. But if the central government is sincere enough, they can defer the elections to pave way for a Naga political settlement. He said elections at this hour would most likely jeopardize Prime Minister’s desire for peace. A political solution to the seven-decade long Indo-Naga political issue must be given greater importance over the democratic electoral exercise.
Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju on January 30, 2018 said that holding of timely elections is a constitutional process and the government is bound by the Constitution, he said while reacting to the Naga civil society groups and political parties have sought deferment of the February 27 Nagaland elections. Further, Rijiju while speaking on behalf of the government believes that peaceful election in Nagaland will facilitate the ongoing peace talks and strengthen the commitment.
A resolution was taken on January 28, 2018 at a meeting convened by the Core Committee of Nagaland Tribal Hoho and Civil Organisations (CCNTCHOC) with the leaders of various political parties, including the ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Other signatories to the declaration include the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Janata Dal-United, Lok Janshakti Party, Aam Aadmi Party, Nagaland Democratic People’s Party, Nagaland Congress, United Naga Democratic Party and the National People’s Party.
The Elections to the Nagaland Assembly to re-constitute the 60-member House is slated to be held on February 27, counting of votes on March 3 and the entire poll process is scheduled to be completed on March 5. The present Assembly session would expire on March 13. The Ruling NPF Government fears that once the new government is formed, it will be difficult to attain peace which is now close at hand.
The separatist National Socialist Council of Nagalim-Issac Muivah, which had signed the Framework Agreement to end Naga insurgency in August 2015 with the central government, had claimed that the decision to hold elections was bound to undermine the progress in the ongoing parleys.
In 2017, the Centre signed an agreement with a working committee comprising six Naga national political groups (Naga rebel factions). On January 28, 2018, the Core Committee had also written to Chief Election Commissioner O.P. Rawat, appealing to him to defer February 27 elections in favour of early solution to the protracted Naga insurgency issue.
The Letter to Rawat stressed on the opportunity for a peaceful resolution of the Naga political issue has never been this favourable, as the political negotiations are in advance stage and we can’t afford to distract the focus from the (peace talks) process at any cost, as it is expedient for all the political parties, both national and regional, to come together in the greater interest of the state.
The Committee felt that with the call ‘Solution before Election’ and defer the elections in order to 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 stated the joint declaration of the political parties stated.
The Constitutional crisis overshadowing the poll posses has put the State Election Commissioner in a fix and has forced the seeking of expert advice. Meanwhile as many as 11 political parties are not willing to take any chances to let go of the opportunity of having the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government at the centre as the NPF and BJP are coalition partners in Nagaland, which can make the attainment of peace easier.
Meghalaya and Assam have missed a similar opportunity when both the states were under Congress rule and the Congress led UPA government was in power at the Centre. This could have been an opportune time to trash out the decades old Inter-state border disputes. Nagaland meanwhile has exhibited the true spirit of political will, as they cannot boycott the democratic Right to Franchise, but rather took a daring decision not to file nominations, knowing well that in doing so the Election Commissioner of India can derecognize them as political parties for not participating in the election processes, which is a must.
The Ruling NPF has take advantage of being the part of NDA government and did not use it just for political mileage, but to literally rope in peace permanently to Nagaland. This is of course laudable, but not participating in the poll processes will land them in trouble, as the date for filing of nomination has just started and will end on February 7. While official correspondence takes months, this is putting pressure on both the Election Commissioner of India and the Political Parties who had put peace in Nagaland before elections.