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Lotus blooms in Nagaland

In a remarkable feat, BJP has for the first time won three seats in the Christian-majority state despite a powerful campaign against it by influential Church.

india Updated: Mar 01, 2003 19:29 IST

In a remarkable feat, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won an unprecedented three seats in Christian-majority Nagaland Saturday despite a campaign against it by the influential Church.

Jubilant party leaders in the Nagaland capital Kohima attributed it to the peace talks initiated with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) by the government of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

"It is a victory for the Vajpayee government whose sincere efforts at bringing back peace to Nagaland has paid dividends," V Satish, the BJP in-charge of the northeastern states, told IANS by telephone from Dimapur in Nagaland.

He said the BJP, despite winning only a small number of seats, would join hands with the Nagaland People's Front (NPF) and other regional groups to form a government in the insurgency-hit state.

This is the first time the BJP has won seats in elections in Nagaland, a state whose population is 90 percent Christian.

The victory of the BJP candidates is significant because the Church as well as rebel groups had warned voters against electing any candidates having a religious bias - a political euphemism for the BJP.

"Elections in Nagaland were not fought on principles or ideologies this time," M. Vero, president of Naga Hoho, the apex tribal council in the state, said over telephone from Kohima.

According to officials, BJP candidates were leading in two more seats as well.

In the 60-member state assembly, the opposition groups were ahead of the ruling Congress.

There was a general feeling among analysts that the BJP may not make inroads in Nagaland because it is widely perceived as pro-Hindu.

But both the NSCN and the BJP dubbed Congress Chief Minister S.C. Jamir as the main stumbling block in the Naga peace process.

The Congress has, however, accused the NSCN of directly supporting the BJP and other regional groups.

NSCN militants abducted at least 250 Congress supporters in the run-up to the polls and reported threatened Congress supporters not to vote for the party.

"The NSCN has hijacked the elections and the results are an indicator to that. The BJP government has exposed that it had links with the NSCN by holding talks just ahead of the poll," Jamir told IANS.

First Published: Mar 01, 2003 19:06 IST