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All major Nagaland parties to boycott assembly elections till Naga issue is resolved

Eleven parties, including the ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF) and the BJP and the Congress, signed a joint declaration at a meeting called by the Core Committee of Naga Tribal Hohos and Civil Organisations (CCNTHCO) in Kohima.

india Updated: Jan 29, 2018 21:12 IST
Utpal Parashar
Utpal Parashar
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Nagaland,Nagaland assembly elections,Naga issue
The gazette notification for the election is to be issued on January 31, after which poll preparations will start for the February 27 elections.(PTI FILE PHOTO)

Throwing a spanner in next month’s assembly elections, political parties in Nagaland — bowing to demands — have decided not to name candidates until the Naga political issue is resolved.

A joint declaration in this regard was signed by leaders of 11 parties, including the ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF) and the BJP and Congress, at a meeting called by the Core Committee of Naga Tribal Hohos and Civil Organisations (CCNTHCO) in Kohima.

“We firmly believe that it is expedient for all political parties, both national and regional, to come together in the greater interest of the state in solidarity with the call ‘Solution before Election’ and defer the elections to the 13th Nagaland legislative assembly and allow the Naga political process to reach its logical conclusion by giving space and time to negotiating groups to bring out an early solution,” the declaration stated.

“And therefore, we the undersigned, on behalf of all the political parties and the intending candidates, have, in compliance with the wishes of the people, decided not to go ahead with the issuance of party tickets or filing of nominations,” it said.

The declaration by the parties

The influential Naga Hoho, which represents the 16 major tribes in the state, and other civil organisations had earlier urged the election commission to defer polls till a ‘final solution’ to the Naga issue is found.

The gazette notification for the election is to be issued on January 31 while polling is scheduled on February 27. The term of the present Nagaland assembly expires on March 14.

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

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 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.

The Nagaland assembly 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 EC not to announce polls till such a solution was arrived at.

Monday’s development is a throwback to 1998 when NSCN and prominent NGOs had asked political parties to boycott the polls.

While most parties agreed to the call, the ruling Congress filed nominations from all seats at the last moment leading to 59 of its candidates winning from the total 60 seats in the state assembly.

This time around while the Congress has been vocal about ‘Solution before Election’, the BJP, which is part of the NPF-led ruling coalition, had not made its stance clear.

On Monday, the BJP also signed the declaration not to take part in polls along with 10 other political parties.

However, postponing the elections would not be an easy task. As per rules, a scheduled election can be stopped only through constitutional amendment and “only in extraordinary circumstances”.

First Published: Jan 29, 2018 17:32 IST