The call for “Solution, not Election” is only growing louder in Nagaland despite the fact that the state is scheduled to have elections in February or early March and hence all eyes are now on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s expected visit to the state later this week.
In 2018, when a coalition of Naga civil society organizations banded together to form the Core Committee and press for the same, seven Naga nationalist groups and 11 political parties inked a united pact not to participate in the elections in favor of Naga solution. However, the committee dissolved soon after, as parties went ahead and fought the polls with BJP making the slogan, ‘election for solution’.
With elections approaching again, the ‘Naga National Political Groups’ or NNPGs, opposition political parties, and tribal organizations are raising the same issue again. The Naga Hoho issued a statement questioning the “sincerity and habitual rhetoric of the government of India with regard to the Indo-Naga political solution” a day after Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to the state on January 6.
However, it appears that the Modi government has yet to make a decision on either an election or a solution.
“Government of India is firm on the decision that the Naga issue should be resolved but it must be inclusive,” Isak Sumi, co-convenor of NNPGs, said in an interview.
According to Sumi, the NNPGs have told the Government of India that Nagas are longing for a solution and not election and that it should not be considered as Nagas boycotting the democratic process.
However, he stated that the Naga nationalist political group is uncertain whether the GoI has informed the Nagaland State government confidentially whether or not elections will be held.
“The Government of India has also not stated that they will not provide a solution. They have also not stated whether or not an election will be held. All they’ve asked for is more time,” Sumi said of their recent meeting with government officials.
He also stated that, according to GoI representatives, NSCN-IM has now grasped what GoI can and cannot provide, but that he is unsure whether they have accepted and reached a deal.
It may be recalled that formal talks between the government of India and the NNPGs was said to have been concluded in October 2019, but a final agreement has not been inked yet, ascribed to a stalemate over the NSCN (IM)’s demand for a separate Naga national flag and constitution persisting.
Challenges mount for Modi’s BJP in Nagaland
Last year, in order to find a solution to the Naga political issue, all parties came together on a joint platform. The Naga People’s Front (NPF) joined forces with the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) government in Nagaland, which includes the NDPP, BJP, and two Independent MLAs.
The Nagaland Legislative Assembly, since the “merger” of 21 NPF MLAs with the NDPP last year, now has 42 NDPP MLAs, 12 BJP MLAs, four NPF MLAs, and two Independents.
The NPF has announced that they will contest against the NDPP-BJP alliance once the polls are notified but have prioritized a solution to the Naga political problem.
The Congress, on the other hand, feels the UDA government should tender their resignations to the Union Home Minister and request that a political solution be implemented.
“If the BJP is honest, they should stand by their commitment. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the issue has been resolved… The BJP in the state should demand settlement, implementation of a political solution. If not, both the UDA and BJP can only be termed as traitors, liars,” K Therie, NPCC president was recently quoted by Indian Express.
To stir matter up on the issue, a delegation of the All India Congress Committee is scheduled to arrive in Dimapur on Tuesday.
The NNPGs’ Working Committee has also accused the state BJP leadership of “playing with fire” and has sought a solution before the polls.
“If elections are enforced in Nagaland against the people’s demand for an honorable and accepted negotiated political settlement, men like Temjen Imna Along (state BJP president) will most certainly ensure a wipeout of the BJP from Nagaland,” the NNPGs have stated.
Meanwhile, the JD (U), which won one seat in the last election, believes the Centre should strive to reach an agreement before the elections. “Since the mandate of the 2018 polls was an election for a solution, we want to have a solution before the coming elections,” JD(U) leader Anil Hegde said recently, adding: “We believe that failure to resolve the Naga political issue is at the root of instability in Nagaland.”
And most significantly, the demand for separate state by the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organization (ENPO) — an umbrella organization of seven tribal bodies who have decided to abstain from participating in any election until their demand is met – persists.