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Nagaland civic polls: Anti-women quota wave makes 53 candidates withdraw

The prospect of social boycott and being exiled from their localities has made 53 candidates withdraw their nomination for Nagaland’s civic body elections on Thursday. 

india Updated: Jan 15, 2017 13:41 IST
Rahul Karmakar
Elections to three municipal councils and 16 town councils are scheduled for February 1 in Nagaland.
Elections to three municipal councils and 16 town councils are scheduled for February 1 in Nagaland.(Representative Image)

The prospect of social boycott and being exiled from their localities has made 53 candidates withdraw their nomination for Nagaland’s civic body elections on Thursday. 

Traditional NGOs in the state have been opposing the civic body polls, scheduled on February 1, because of the 33% quota provided for women. 

The quota, they say, is an infringement on Naga customary laws (that do not give administrative rights to women) and a violation of Article 1(A) of the Constitution that guarantees preservation of Naga customs and traditions. 

Nagaland has 32 municipal and town councils. State-wide protests and periodic shutdowns since the polls were announced last month prevented any candidate from filing their papers in six civic bodies, including that of capital Kohima, where the dominant tribe is Angami. 

By Thursday evening, all 27 candidates of Pfutsero town in Phek district withdrew their nominations taking the number of no-contest councils to seven. The other 10 candidates who withdrew are spread across six councils. 

“The official date of withdrawal of nomination is January 17, but some candidates withdrew on Thursday in response to calls by various organisations,” a state election commission officer said, declining to be quoted given the sensitivity of the issue of “holding the polls against public sentiments”. 

Nagaland civic polls
  • Urban local body polls scheduled: February 1 
  • Total number of town/municipal councils: 32 
  • Number of town/municipal councils going to polls: 26 
  • Town/municipal councils registering nil nomination: Kohima, Mokokchung, Tuensang, Mon, Medziphema and Changtongya 
  • Number of nominations found valid: 535 
  • Official date of withdrawal of nomination: January 17 
  • Deadline by NGOs for withdrawing nomination: January 12 
  • Number of candidates withdrawing nomination: 53 
  • Town council with nil nominations after withdrawal: Pfutsero 
  • Number of women candidates: 188

He did not specify how many of those who withdrew were women. Of the 535 valid nominations filed, 188 were by women. 

The election officer did not rule out the possibility of more candidates withdrawing by the official date (Tuesday). On whether this could cast a cloud on the polls, he said: “Remember, Nagaland has an instance when a party formed the government virtually unopposed.” 

The Congress under SC Jamir had won the 1998 assembly election uncontested in 34 of the 60 seats. This was because the militant National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) had asked all aspirants to sign a proclamation saying they “strongly oppose the holding of elections in Naga-inhabited areas…” 

Terming the protests unfortunate, the Naga Mothers’ Association hoped the elections would be held to convey the change in the mind-set in Nagaland. “We need to send the right signal to the world beyond that is moving towards greater gender equality. We hope the elections are held in the councils where nominations have been filed,” Rosemary Dzuvichu, the association’s advisor, told Hindustan Times. 

NGOs such as Naga Hoho – the apex body of 16 tribes – insist they are not against capable women contesting elections but that there should be no quota to deny deserving candidates from filing nominations. 

Nagaland has had no woman as member of the assembly since the state was created in 1963. Rano M Shaiza, elected in 1977, is the only woman member of parliament from the state. 

Despite opposition, the Zeliang government passed a bill in November 2015 to facilitate seat quota for women. “Article 243(T), in force since 1993, did not infringe upon any Naga tradition or customary law when we provided 25% quota for women in the village development boards. Non-holding of election to urban bodies in last 10 years has affected the development of towns and municipalities,” said a government statement to justify holding the civic body polls.