In Nagaland, remarkable unity among all MLAs for one LS candidate… | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

In Nagaland, remarkable unity among all MLAs for one LS candidate…

ByAlice Yhoshü
Apr 09, 2024 11:16 PM IST

…But, the going may not be that easy as the Centre moves to scrap the Free Movement Regime with Myanmar, notify CAA rules, and push for a Uniform Civil Code

As Nagaland prepares to go to polls for its lone seat in the Lok Sabha on April 19, all the 60 MLAs in the state’s opposition-less assembly have, in a rare occurrence, extended support to the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) consensus candidate Dr Chumben Murry who will be contesting on NDPP ticket. Besides his party, NDPP, Murry has support from BJP, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), National People’s Party (NPP), Janata Dal (United), Republican Party of India (Athawale), Naga People’s Front (NPF) and Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas).

 Besides the ruling NDPP and BJP, the state assembly currently consists of seven NCP, five NPP, two NPF, two RPI (A), two LJP (RV), one JD (U) and four Independent MLAs. (X/RajBhavanKohima) PREMIUM
Besides the ruling NDPP and BJP, the state assembly currently consists of seven NCP, five NPP, two NPF, two RPI (A), two LJP (RV), one JD (U) and four Independent MLAs. (X/RajBhavanKohima)

However, if local issues come into play, such as the Frontier Nagaland Territory (FNT) demand by the people of six eastern districts of the state under the aegis of Eastern Nagaland People’s Organization (ENPO), things may not be so smooth for Murry.

Though the forthcoming Lok Sabha election in Nagaland will see a multi-cornered contest with Independent Hayithung Tungoe Lotha and Nagaland Congress president S Supongmeren Jamir in the fray, Murry, with the support of all 60 MLAs, is likely to have a clear edge over his opponents.

The NDPP-BJP has a pre-poll 40:20 seat-sharing agreement in the state assembly and one each in the Upper and Lower houses of the Parliament. Incumbent Rajya Sabha MP Phangnon Konyak is from BJP and Lok Sabha MP Tokheho Yepthomi is NDPP. The partnership made its second innings during the 2023 state assembly elections by clinching an absolute majority with 37 seats (NDPP-25, BJP-12) and following the instalment of the second PDA government led by chief minister Neiphiu Rio of NDPP, political parties with a lesser number of MLAs gradually extended their support to the PDA to constitute an opposition-less house. Besides the ruling NDPP and BJP, the state assembly currently consists of seven NCP, five NPP, two NPF, two RPI (A), two LJP (RV), one JD (U) and four Independent MLAs.

Locals say issues need addressing

Dismayed over the Union government’s delay in settling the autonomous FNT issue, the ENPO has a standing resolution to refrain from participating in any Central or state election since February 23. ENPO has 20 assembly seats.

What’s more, the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre’s various policies including the scrapping of the Free Movement Regime (FMR) with Myanmar, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the Uniform Civil Code and recent atrocities against Christians have had an effect on the local populace.

“It (the LS polls) will be a test of Naga people’s resolve vis-a-vis the kind of politics being played at the Pan India level by the BJP, which is, the ‘One Nation, One Culture, One Language, One Religion’ narrative. Given this narrative, it remains to be seen whether Nagas behold the danger it bodes for us or will follow the NDPP-BJP brigade which is essentially following the money trail,” said Joel Naga, the president of Nagaland-based Rising People’s Party.

“The BJP-RSS factor is definitely there. Nagas have not digested the idea of Hindutva. Hindutva is something that will go on to destroy the secularism of this country,” said Sebastian Zumvü, a former journalist. He referred to the 2019 parliamentary elections where the state Congress, without having a single MLA in the assembly, nearly defeated the ruling NDPP candidate.

KL Chishi of Nagaland Congress lost to NDPP’s Yepthomi by barely 16,344 votes.

“Voters were not against NDPP, but they were against the BJP-RSS ideologies,” Zumvü noted.

K Angami, a Kohima-based political observer, said the ENPO areas (20 assembly seats) abstaining from participating in the upcoming election could pose a major concern for NDPP as Central policies having bearing on local issues will likely be reflected in the electoral process.

Expressing similar sentiments, Joel Naga says CM Rio has a cause for concern because out of the 13 lakh voters in the state, 30% are from the ENPO area with 20 MLAs.

“The ENPO boycott is definitely making Rio jittery. If one recalls that opposition-less PDA garnered more than 95% of the total votes cast in the last 2023 assembly election, and the Congress received barely 3.50%, surely the PDA must have felt confident that with all the 60 MLAs on board, this LS election was going to be a walkover. But that’s not the case now. ENPO was basically Rio's bastion but due to his mishandling of the FNT issue, perhaps the ENPO distrusted both Union home minister Amit Shah and Rio in equal measure. Murry is basically on the back foot,” he added.

Meanwhile, senior journalist H Chishi observes that opposition parties have been playing the religious sentiment card against the BJP and it worked in Nagaland in 2019, but the religious card and anti-incumbency factors are unlikely to work this time.

“It is almost a sham and bogus parliamentary election in Nagaland. But the voters should know how important it is to participate in a democratic process and elect a capable MP and send to the Parliament to speak and lobby for us on many issues confronting the state,” Chishi said.

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