Despite strong opposition by Naga Hoho – the apex tribal body of different tribes of the state – to reservation of seats for women, as many as 185 women have finally submitted their nominations against 350 male candidates for election to the municipal bodies in Nagaland slated for February 1. No nomination papers were filed in seven of the 32 municipal bodies following a boycott call given by the tribal bodies.
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Statistics released by the state election commission in Kohima on Wednesday evening showed that the seven municipal bodies for which not a single nomination paper was filed included Kohima – the capital city, Dimapur – the main business hub, Mokokchung, Tuensang, Mon, Medziphema and Changtongya. While volunteers of the tribal bodies blocked roads to the returning offices in some districts, a bandh was called in Tuesday to ensure that no candidates filed their papers on the last day.
Majority of the 185 women candidates belonged to the Naga People’s Front (NPF), with as many as 90 women from the ruling party filing their nominations. While 24 of the BJP’s 79 candidates were women, the Congress had only 11 women candidates among its 38 candidates who filed their nominations. Independents comprised of 63 women against 106 males.
The contention of the tribal bodies including the Naga Hoho is that granting 33 per cent reservation for women would infringe on Naga customary laws and tradition as protected under Article 371(A) of the Constitution of India. The Naga Hoho had last week also warned that it should not be later held responsible for any “adverse effect” in the future. While the elections were notified on December 21, 2016, the process for filing and verification of nominations closed on Wednesday.
The NPF government – an ally of the BJP – however has maintained that 33 per cent reservation for women did not amount to infringing upon any Naga customary law and tradition, because the very concept of urban bodies was new. “Towns and municipalities are ne concepts and have nothing to do with tradition and customary practices of the Nagas,” a statement issued by the government after a state cabinet meeting on January 2 had said.
With constant opposition from Naga Hoho and other tribal bodies, election to the urban local bodies including the Kohima Municipal Council has been pending since Article 243(T) of the Constitution came into force in 1993. Incidentally, while the Nagaland state assembly had on September 22, 2012 adopted resolution opposing reservation for women, it revoked that decision in November 24, 2016.