The Battle for States: Nagaland

Why BJP Will Play the Kingmaker In Christian-Majority Nagaland

A cheat sheet to understand the less covered state of Nagaland, which is going to polls this week.

Subhajit Sengupta, Sheikh Saaliq | 20 Feb, 2018

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A total of 195 candidates are in fray for the February 27 Assembly elections being held in Nagaland.

Religion is one of the dominant issues that will play a key role in the upcoming polls. BJP candidates have promised senior citizens a trip to the holy land of Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Congress, in its manifesto, has assured to work towards setting up a board “to facilitate minorities to visit Holy Land at a subsidised cost”.

As both the parties are trying to woo the Christian-majority of the state, regional parties will try to hold the fort.

Total Number of seats: 60 Seats

Date of Poling: 27/02/2017

Incumbent government: Nagaland People Front (NPF) led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) has been ruling over the state for the last 15 years. Former Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio won the elections thrice, but resigned in 2014 after he went to the Lok Sabha. T R Zeliang is now the Chief Minsiter. This election NPF is contesting alone, as the other constituents of DAN, BJP and JD(U) have decided to part ways.


NAGALAND PEOPLES FRONT HAS CONSOLIDATED ITS SEAT SHARE IN LAST THREE ELECTIONS


Main challenger: Biggest challenger for Zeliang is Rio himself. Neiphiu Rio wants to return as the Chief Minister of the state. Thus the fight this time is between the ruling NPF and the alliance of Rio’s newly formed NDPP (Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party) and BJP.


VOTE SHARE OF MAJOR POLITICAL PARTIES IN 2003, 2008 & 2013 ELECTIONS


Possible kingmaker: Though a political lightweight, BJP is being courted by both NPF and NDPP. BJP draws its power from being the ruling party at the centre. Whichever party wins the election would want to be in the good books of BJP.

Main Poll Issue: Final solution of the Naga issue remains the key issue of the state. Nagaland Chief Minister TR Zeliang had, in November, said that the Centre was likely to announce the peace agreement with NSCN-IM and six other groups either before Christmas or before the assembly elections. When that did not happen civil society and the various pressure groups led by the NSCN-IM demanded dissolution of the poll process till the final solution is declared by the Union Government.

The boycott call did not work out, with political parties led by the BJP went ahead to announce the candidates. But no public meeting in the state is devoid of some rhetoric on the ‘Final Solution' of the Naga Issue.


CONSTITUENCY WISE WINNERS FROM 2013 ELECTIONS VISUALISED IN TERMS OF WIN MARGIN

NPF INC BJP JD(U) NCP IND

Leitmotif of the State: The ethnic Naga movement began in 1918 with the formation of the Naga Club. In 1929, the club had submitted a memorandum to the Simon Commission, opposing integration with mainland India and requesting Nagas be identified as a separate ethnic group.

Subsequently in 1946, Naga National Council (NNC) was formed under the leadership of A Z Phizo who is also known as the "Father of the Naga movement". The council under the leadership of Phizo, declared Naga independence on August 14, 1947.

The NNC picked up arms in 1955 and Indian security forces moved in quickly with the counter-insurgency operations.

The government of India later imposed the Assam Disturbed Areas Act on the Naga Hills on August 27, 1955. This later became the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958, further amended in 1972.

National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) was formed in 1980 after the two prominent NNC leaders Thuingaleng Muivah and Isak Chishi Swu felt that the Shillong Accord of 1975 was a complete sellout.

But NSCN too split 8 years later. One faction led by Isak Chisi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah charted a separate course from the other led by Khaplang. NSCN (I-M) later negotiated a ceasefire with the Government of India which the two sides have adhered to since 1997.

A framework agreement was signed between the government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak Muivah) [NSCN (IM)] on 3 August 2015.

Women candidates: Ever since the first legislative assembly was formed in February 1964, no woman has ever been elected to the House. Nagaland though elected Rano M Shaiza to the Lok Sabha in 1977, the one and only woman lawmaker the people of Nagaland have chosen to represent them in either assembly or parliament.


REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN THIS ELECTION


Of the 195 candidates vying for a seat in the 60-member Assembly this time in Nagaland, only five are women.

(Data Source: Election Commission of India)