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KOHIMA/GUWAHATI: The campaign against Nagaland assembly elections crumbled on Wednesday with an organisation of the most prominent Naga tribes — the Angami Nagas — pulling out of the boycott even as Election Commission issued notification for the polls in the state. This came within 24 hours of BJP taking a similar stand.
The ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF), which, along with its ally BJP was one of the signatories of the ‘joint declaration’ by 11 parties for a boycott on Monday, also made it amply clear that it could change its stand. “If any other party files nominations, we will also file,” NPF chief Shurhozelie Liezietsu said.
Angami Public Organization (APO), a body of influential Angami Nagas who dominate Kohima, and its associate groups said they would neither persuade nor dissuade any individual from filing nominations. APO, which signed the declaration on Monday along with other groups, said it will also not boycott the elections. It also asked people living in Angami areas not to take part in Thursday’s statewide bandh called by the Core Committee of Nagaland Tribal Hohos and Civil Organizations (CCNTHCO). Tribal hohos’ (bodies) and civil society groups are part of CCNTHCO.
The possibility of more parties and groups dissociating themselves from the joint declaration in coming days is not ruled out. Sources say BJP’s decision to take part in polls may compel these parties to change their stand. This became evident when state Congress president K Therie said BJP candidates might get protection from paramilitary forces when they file their nominations. “This (others not contesting the polls) may allow BJP to form the government,” said Therie. This statement can be seen as a rethink on part of Congress, which was also a signatory to the declaration.
In 1998, Congress had won 43 of the 60 seats unopposed when other parties boycotted the assembly election in response to a call from civil society and militant groups. It had managed to capture 10 of the remaining 17 seats, where the election was held. The last seven seats went to independents.
NPF president Liezietsu said his party will ensure that a repeat of 1998 does not happen this time. “You know what happened in 1998… there will be nothing like this,” he added.
Many stakeholders attributed BJP’s decision to take part in the election to the saffron party’s effort to project itself as an organisation that did not succumb to pressure from local groups. They maintained that the joint declaration would be meaningless if it doesn’t get support from all parties. “We cannot forget how Congress under SC Jamir won the election in 1998 in a similar situation,” a Naga leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.