Faced with stiff resistance from National Socialist Council of Nagaland (IM) and Naga civil society groups on holding Assembly election in Nagaland, scheduled for 27 February, political parties in the state have decided to wait for the BJP to file its nominations first.
Sources say that most of the political parties are prepared for the election but have not filed their nominations as it would be seen as a defiance of the call to boycott the election. They hope that the BJP would be the first to take this step. The last date for filing the nominations is 7 February.
"Most political parties are likely to file nominations after the BJP files on 6 February. It would not be a smart decision for the parties to defy the boycott call. Many parties hope that the BJP would (assume) the political risk of going against the boycott call first," an insider of the newly formed Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) told Firstpost.
"No political party candidate has filed nominations for the 27 February Nagaland Assembly elections till today (Monday) even as only two days are left for it," state Chief Electoral Officer Abhijit Sinha told PTI on Monday.
NSCN (IM) and Naga civil society groups hold significant sway on Nagaland politics and hence it is seen as a politically incorrect move to antagonise them.
Interestingly, the call to boycott the election is seen as a repetition of history, as a similar call was made by the NSCN(IM) ahead of the 1998 Assembly election. Most of the parties did not field candidates in that election and the Congress party won most of the seats uncontested.
"We do not want to give any party a walkover this time. So, if other parties field candidates than we will follow suit," said Chingwang Konyak, president of the National Democratic People's Party.
Significantly, the BJP had backed out of an agreement in which all political parties had agreed not to field candidates in the upcoming election if it was held before a solution was reached to the Naga peace process.
Nagaland is going through turbulent times ever since the Assembly election was declared. Many political outfits, including the NSCN(IM), had sounded the 'solution before the election' slogan, demanding resolution of the peace talks. The groups had subsequently persuaded the political parties to sign the boycott agreement.
A joint declaration was issued by the NSCN (IM) and the working committee of six other Naga national political groups, stating that they support the demand of the Naga tribal bodies and civil society to find a solution to the peace negotiation before the election, something the Centre has been non-committal on.
The joint declaration stated: "When Naga people as a whole have made the collective decision to forgo election, we caution vested interest and unscrupulous persons not to sabotage the historical processes of negotiations by filing nominations and indulging in the election process."
Though a leader in the BJP signed the declaration, the party declared soon after that he did so without consultation with the leadership and backed out. "We did not authorise any party leader to sign an agreement. The person who signed it was not authorised to do so," said Visasolie Lhoungu, the BJP Nagaland president.
The party suspended the leader who had signed the agreement. The BJP is now caught in a catch-22 as it cannot afford to abide by the call to boycott the election, for it will result in giving the Opposition an opportunity to slam the Centre.
The Centre has been in talks with the NSCN (IM) over last two-and-a-half years. Abiding by the boycott call made over the perceived failure of the Centre in striking a deal would only vindicate the Opposition's stand.
The BJP has since come up with a tentative list of candidates for the election. The saffron party has signed a seat-sharing agreement with NDPP, where it agreed that the BJP will contest only in 20 seats leaving 40 seats for the allying party in the state – which has 60 Assembly seats.
Other than the BJP, the NPF has also since declared its first list of 58 candidates for the polls.
KG Kenye, secretary general of the ruling NPF had told Firstpost that because of the protests by various bodies, the party had decided to gauge the situation first but added that it is now completely ready to face the election. "We are fully prepared to file nominations. We will file the nominations soon," he said.
A party source said, "if the BJP becomes the first to file nominations then the blame of defying the call would entirely fall on the BJP and other parties would follow suit with the alibi that if they do not file nominations then it will result in a walkover for the BJP."
The Congress is also likely to file nominations on the last day, K Therie, state party president said. "Let the BJP and the NPF file nominations. We will file only after that," he added.
Updated Date: Feb 06, 2018 12:08 PM