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Nagaland polls: Neiphiu Rio casts vote, says NDPP-BJP will win by record margin

Feb 27, 2023 01:17 PM IST

The voting for the 60-member Nagaland assembly began at 7am with over 13 lakh electors set to decide the electoral fate of 183 candidates

Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio on Monday expressed hope that the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance will win the ongoing assembly election by a record margin and form the next government in the state.

Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio cast his vote in the Northern Angami-II seat, from where he is contesting. (Twitter/Neiphiu Rio)

The voting for the 60-member Nagaland assembly began at 7am with over 13 lakh electors set to decide the electoral fate of 183 candidates.

After casting his vote in the Northern Angami-II seat, from where he is contesting, Rio told reporters that the atmosphere for final solution to the decades-old Naga political issue has become conducive and an end to it is expected soon.

“We are hoping to win by record margin, including from my seat and form the next government,” he said. Rio, who has been the chief minister for four terms and is already the longest serving head of government in the state, is slated to head the next government again if the NDPP-BJP secures majority in the assembly.

In 2018, the NDPP-BJP contested the election with a 40:20 formula (40 seats for the NDPP and 20 for the BJP) and the same is being followed this time. Five years ago, though the Naga Peoples’ Front (NPF) won 26 seats, the NDPP, which bagged 17 seats, and the BJP that got 12 were able to form government.

“We want a solution to the Naga political issue and permanent peace and all-round development of the state. National Socialist Council of Nagalim-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) had signed a Framework Agreement with Centre in August, 2015 and the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) signed an agreement in November, 2017,” said Rio.

“But while both strong groups signed, they were not together. That’s why I feel there was no solution during this period. But on January 14 this year they gave a joint statement that they will together solve the Naga issue through the historical right of the Nagas and protecting the tradition, culture and identity of the Nagas. The coming together of both groups gives us more hope for the Naga issue. Nobody can set a deadline, but we are hopeful that things will go smoother this time,” he added.

Speaking on the demand for creation of a separate state comprising the eastern districts of the state, Rio stated that the next government will offer full support in resolving the grievances of people from the region. Prior to the elections, the Eastern Naga Peoples Organisation (ENPO), the most influential group in the region, had called for a boycott of polls if their demand was not met. But they withdrew the boycott call after a meeting with Union home minister Amit Shah.

“Because of coming to an understanding, they called off their boycott and election is going on peacefully in the eastern region. Home minister Shah had assured that the grievances would be addressed and I also said that if we come back to power, we will give full support to uplift their deficiencies of infrastructure, jobs and build up the economy,” he said.

Nagaland is yet to elect a woman MLA in the state’s 60-year history and Rio expressed the hope that this dubious record would be broken this time. Four women candidates are contesting the polls this time—two of them are from Rio’s NDDP and one from BJP.

The CM stated that law and order situation in Nagaland has improved considerably in past years and expressed hope that the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), which gives sweeping powers to security forces, would gradually get removed from the entire state.

The polling will continue till 4pm. The counting of votes will take place on March 2.

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