In the hills of Nagaland, the political atmosphere is hot in the midst of the winter season. On one hand is the demand for ‘solution’ by Naga civil society groups and Naga national political groups (NNPGs) and on the other hand are the political parties caught between ‘whether or not to fight elections’.
Let us go back to the year 1998 when we had a similar situation. In 1998, Naga Hoho had given the same — ‘No election without solution’ — call along with the NSCN-IM. The ceasefire between the Government of India and the Isak-Muivah had just been signed in 1997 and peace talks had started begun. Except for the Indian National Congress, all other political parties responded or were coerced to withdraw from the elections. Congress won in 53 seats and independents in seven.
Coming back to 2017, the BJP Government at the centre has to decide the best possible way to handle the current situation. Thanks to infighting in ruling party the Naga People’s Front, the BJP sees an opportunity to grab power in Nagaland. But if they are not careful and only focus on political gains, the party may be seen as opportunistic and earn the wrath of the Naga people. The BJP is the only political party which has not participated in the discussions with civil society organizations on the matter of ‘solution not election’.
NPF: treading a safe path
The ruling party NPF is careful not to be on the losing end this time. The Chief Minister TR Zeliang has met BJP president Amit Shah to discuss seat-sharing for the upcoming polls. This was met with criticism by sections of the public and questioned if this was the right time to be discussing ‘seat-sharing’.
TR Zeliang on his part clarified that ‘NPF will boycott elections, if all parties do so’. “If other political parties files nominations, the NPF cannot be the victims of election boycott, which would be a repeat of 1998. If all political parties agree not to participate and not file nominations then the NPF party will follow suit.” said Zeliang.
History beckons BJP
The ball is in the court of the BJP ruled government in the centre. They will get the credit for solving the 70 year old Naga political problem if they make the right moves. On the other hand, the situation may turn out to be a embaressment for the BJP in case polls are deffered and a constitutional crisis arises without the party giving any solid roadmap for ‘solution’.