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Nagaland polls: Parties focus on Naga identity in a bid to woo voters

In Nagaland, where 88% of the population is Christian, the church too looked wary of the “invasion of Hindutva forces”.

Nagaland Election 2018 Updated: Feb 15, 2018 07:25 IST
Utpal Parashar
Utpal Parashar
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Nagaland,Nagaland elections,Kohima
Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives for the inauguration of the Hornbill festival at Kisama village on the outskirts of Kohima in Nagaland on Monday.(PTI File Photo)

Elections are a time when issues like development and corruption are expected to be in the spotlight. However, in poll-bound Nagaland, a political tussle over Naga identity has taken centre stage.

On Monday, former CM and chief of the ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF), Shurhozelie Liezietsu, urged voters to vote for his party, warning that “our identity might perish if we do not realise what force is penetrating into our land”. “This election is not just a contest between parties but also a contest between outside forces and the force of the Naga people,” he told a rally in Tseminyu.

The Congress, which is contesting from 18 seats and is open to a tie-up with the NPF, echoed Liezietsu’s views. “The way of life and culture Nagas are different from the rest of India. If we give away our assembly to BJP, which follows the RSS’ ideology, it will hurt our identity,” Nagaland Congress chief K Therie said.

In Nagaland, where 88% of the population is Christian, the church too looked wary of the “invasion of Hindutva forces”.

“We cannot deny that the Hindutva movement in the country has become invasive with the BJP in power,” the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC), the state’s biggest church body, said in a statement.

The BJP, however, dubbed the allegations against it a part of political rhetoric. “There is no threat to Naga identity from the BJP. The allegations are just part of the campaign to distract voters from important issues,” BJP’s Nagaland chief V Lhoungu said.

The upcoming polls are being held against the backdrop of Naga tribal outfits and civil groups seeking a postponement of the electoral process till there is a solution to the Naga peace talks.

All major parties had reached a consensus last month to boycott the polls but the call died down after the BJP backed out.

“Parties talk of Naga identity as per their convenience. We want them to not make hollow statements,” Theja Therieh, convener of the now dissolved core committee of Naga tribal hohos and civil organisations said.

First Published: Feb 14, 2018 23:04 IST