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Naga bodies tell EC to defer assembly polls till Nagaland problem is solved

The demand to postpone the polls could trigger a political crisis in the state because elections can only be stopped through a constitutional amendment and “only in extraordinary circumstances”.

india Updated: Jan 28, 2018 10:10 IST
Utpal Parashar
Utpal Parashar
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Nagaland,Naga Hoho,Election Commission
File photo of Naga Hogo leaders meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi in June 2015. (PMO)

Backed by political parties including the ruling Naga People’s Front, influential groups and civil organizations in the state urged the Election Commission on Saturday to defer assembly elections “in favour of early solution to the protracted Naga political issue”.

The core committee of Nagaland tribal ‘hohos’ and civil organizations (CCNTHCO) sent a “prayer of petition” to the Chief Election Commissioner after a crucial meeting in Kohima just four days ahead of a gazette notification for assembly elections and a month for polling in Nagaland,.

The Nagaland Tribal Hoho is the apex body of all 16 major tribes in Nagaland. The meeting was also attended by the ruling Naga People’s Front and National People’s Party, Aam Aadmi Party and several other major organizations like Nagaland Tribes Council, Eastern Nagaland People’s Organization and Naga Students’ Federation.

“The opportunity for a peaceful resolution of the Naga political issue has never been this favourable as the political negotiations are in advanced stage and we cannot effort to distract the focus on the process at any cost,” the letter stated.

The Centre signed a framework agreement with National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), the most prominent of the several Naga rebel outfits, in 2015. But the deal hasn’t been made public yet.

The NSCN (I-M) has been demanding integration of Naga-inhabited areas in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. But with Centre rejecting the demand, there is confusion as to what kind of a ‘final solution’ can be expected.

Hopes of an early solution soared after New Delhi started consultations with six more rebel outfits towards the end of last year leading to speculations that a final agreement would be signed soon and it would be acceptable to all outfits and the public.

The Nagaland assembly, whose tenure expires on March 14, had also passed a resolution in December 2017 urging the Centre to take “emergent steps” for an acceptable solution “well before election” and also requested the EC not to announce polls till such a solution is arrived at.

But with polls scheduled for February 27, many in Nagaland believe it will impede the peace talks.

The Naga Hoho and other civil organizations had earlier written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also met Union home minister Rajnath Singh requesting deferment of polls.

“The people of Nagaland are keen and determined to work with the ECI in exercising their franchise to have an elected government. We cannot, however, participate in such an exercise till our desire for a political solution is met,” the letter added.

The BJP which is part of the NPF-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland government in Nagaland did not attend Saturday’s meeting. The powerful Nagaland Baptist Church Council also abstained.

But despite the clamour for postponement of polls, it won’t be an easy for the EC to concede to the demand. According to existing rules scheduled elections can only be stopped through a constitutional amendment and “only in extraordinary circumstances”.

The CCNTHCO has called for another meeting on Monday where it will urge all political parties not to file nominations for the assembly polls.

First Published: Jan 28, 2018 09:26 IST