'Had we gone it alone, we'd have won 20 seats': Nagaland BJP state president talks seat-sharing, dissent and defections

From the Opposition to the Church to civil society groups, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Nagaland is seemingly facing many challenges before the 27 February Assembly election.

Its decision to enter into a seat-sharing agreement with the newly-formed Nationalist Democratic People’s Party has landed it in hot water as many workers and party leaders resent the move — indeed, some have left the party — and see it as marring its prospects.

 Had we gone it alone, wed have won 20 seats: Nagaland BJP state president talks seat-sharing, dissent and defections

Representational image. AP

BJP state president Visasolie Lhoungu talks about these challenges in an exclusive interview with Firstpost:

For the past fifteen years, BJP had an alliance with the ruling Naga People’s Front. But it snapped ties with it to tie up with the Nationalist Democratic People’s Party. So, what went wrong?

The BJP wanted to continue with its alliance with the Naga People’s Front (NPF). But the central leadership felt that this time around, there should not only be an alliance, but also a seat-sharing agreement. But the NPF found it difficult to give us even ten seats. This was problematic, and this is why we decided to ally with the Nationalist Democratic People’s Party (NDPP), which offered us 20 seats. But the BJP has not severed ties with the NPF. The only difference is we do not have an electoral alliance with them.

Many BJP leaders believe that the seat-sharing agreement will mar the prospects of the BJP. Out of frustration, they joined other parties just before the election. Won't this work against BJP?

Even the state unit of the BJP wanted the party to face the election alone and without any seat-sharing arrangement. But since the NDPP offered us more seats and our central leadership wanted an alliance, we are bound to follow leadership. We should not forget that the BJP is a national party with much discipline and we have to work accordingly.

After you took over as BJP state president, you've had to deal with dissent within the party...

There is no dissent within the Nagaland BJP. But our party has grown exponentially in Nagaland, and as a result, we intended to field more than 50 candidates in 60 constituencies. Had we gone it alone, the BJP would have won more than 20 seats. But because of our seat-sharing agreement, we had to sacrifice a large number of potential candidates. We've managed to convince our people to accept the decision of the leadership and things have returned to normal.

Recently, the Church came down heavily on the BJP, alleging that it is attempting to extend its Hindutva agenda. Doesn't that it make it harder as the Naga people trust the Church?

We've been allied with the NPF for so many years. Never before has the Church come out with any such statement against the BJP. We don't understand why the Church has made such a statement after we've allied with the NDPP. We don't want to issue a counter-statement or confront the Church. We clarified our stance and our media cell took care of it. I think people understand the intricacies of the matter. The Nagaland Baptist Church Council has been criticised on social media for its stance.

Have you reached an agreement with the NDPP regarding the BJP's Hindutva agenda?

There's no such condition from either side.

Recently, a demand to resolve the Naga peace talks before the election surfaced. Two-and-a-half years have passed by and the peace process continues, which the other parties are portraying as a failure. How is the state BJP dealing with this?

We fully support the demand for early resolution. This is the demand of every Naga. But when it comes to holding election, we have to proceed as per law, because election is a time-bound process.

Updated Date: Feb 23, 2018 16:32:43 IST