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Friday, January 28, 2022

Explained: What’s at stake for Nagaland political parties

The Nagaland government has been trying to contain public anger after the firing incident in Mon.

Written by Esha Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: December 7, 2021 4:33:48 pm
Assam Rifles personnel at a camp of the force which was set on fire on Sunday in the violence over Saturday’s killings. (PTI Photo)

Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio’s call on Monday to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958 is a reiteration of the stand of successive state governments over the last few decades, with the state having recommended a repeal several times, in view of the ceasefire in place since 1997. The Nagaland government has been trying to contain public anger after the firing incident in Mon.

Zero opposition

In September this year, the opposition Naga People’s Front (NPF), one of Nagaland’s oldest parties, reached out to Rio and his Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) to join hands to form an all-party alliance.

In the 2018 elections, while the NPF had more seats (26) than Rio’s party (18) in the 60-member house, it was Rio who forged an alliance with the BJP to form the government. The NPF had been the BJP’s ally in previous elections, but had split ahead of the 2018 polls. The BJP won 12 seats. Rio became the Nagaland Chief Minister for the third time with the support of the BJP and two independents.

The alliance with the NPF last September, which Rio named the United Democratic Alliance, left the Nagaland Assembly without an opposition. The Congress has a presence in the state, but not in the Assembly, having failed to win any seat in 2018.

Assembly without Opposition

Why they came together

The reasoning given by leaders of the NDPP and NPF for joining forces was that it would smoothen the path for the peace process, and present a unified front to the Centre.

While details of the demands made by various militant groups to the Interlocutors and the Centre are not entirely known, senior political leaders anticipate that implementation of the peace process may entail the immediate dissolution of the present government as soon as an accord is signed, and even before the tenure of the government is complete. This could be done, political leaders said, at the insistence the Centre, which would want to accommodate erstwhile insurgent leaders. The leaders anticipate an interim government being put in place until the next elections.

Political analysts have said that while officially the various Naga parties have committed to making way for a new government, as and when it is installed, the coming together of various parties to form one unified group of 60 MLAs would give them a better chance to be included in the new interim government. Analysts have said accommodating representatives of different political parties would be unwieldly, and fighting among then would create too much confusion to enable their members to be included in the new government.

Several insurgent groups have also demanded a second House in the Nagaland legislature, of 40-50 members, which would have representatives of all the 16 indigenous tribes of Nagaland.

While political leaders believe they can still be accommodated in a new set-up alongside erstwhile insurgents, the continuance of the “rule” of insurgent groups will likely become untenable. All groups run parallel governments with their own cabinets, and impose taxes on residents. Political leaders have often said this is not only a law and order issue, but also detrimental to infrastructure development.

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