Par­ties fo­cus on Naga iden­tity in a bid to woo vot­ers

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - NATION - Ut­pal Parashar let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

GUWAHATI: Elec­tions are a time when is­sues like de­vel­op­ment and cor­rup­tion are ex­pected to be in the spot­light. How­ever, in poll­bound Na­ga­land, a po­lit­i­cal tus­sle over Naga iden­tity has taken cen­tre stage.

On Mon­day, for­mer CM and chief of the rul­ing Naga Peo­ple’s Front (NPF), Shurhozelie Liezi­etsu, urged vot­ers to vote for his party, warn­ing that “our iden­tity might per­ish if we do not re­alise what force is pen­e­trat­ing into our land”. “This elec­tion is not just a con­test be­tween par­ties but also a con­test be­tween out­side forces and the force of the Naga peo­ple,” he told a rally in Tseminyu.

The Congress, which is con­test­ing from 18 seats and is open to a tie-up with the NPF, echoed Liezi­etsu’s views. “The way of life and cul­ture Na­gas are dif­fer­ent from the rest of In­dia. If we give away our assem­bly to BJP, which fol­lows the RSS’ ide­ol­ogy, it will hurt our iden­tity,” Na­ga­land Congress chief K Therie said.

In Na­ga­land, where 88% of the pop­u­la­tion is Chris­tian, the church too looked wary of the “in­va­sion of Hin­dutva forces”.

“We can­not deny that the Hin­dutva move­ment in the coun­try has be­come in­va­sive with the BJP in power,” the Na­ga­land Bap­tist Church Coun­cil (NBCC), the state’s big­gest church body, said in a state­ment.

The BJP, how­ever, dubbed the al­le­ga­tions against it a part of po­lit­i­cal rhetoric. “There is no threat to Naga iden­tity from the BJP. The al­le­ga­tions are just part of the cam­paign to dis­tract vot­ers from im­por­tant is­sues,” BJP’S Na­ga­land chief V Lhoungu said.

The up­com­ing polls are be­ing held against the back­drop of Naga tribal out­fits and civil groups seek­ing a post­pone­ment of the elec­toral process till there is a so­lu­tion to the Naga peace talks.

All ma­jor par­ties had reached a con­sen­sus last month to boy­cott the polls but the call died down af­ter the BJP backed out.

“Par­ties talk of Naga iden­tity as per their con­ve­nience. We want them to not make hol­low state­ments,” K Therieh, con­vener of the now dis­solved core com­mit­tee of Naga tribal ho­hos and civil or­gan­i­sa­tions said. The CPM is bat­tling anti-in­cum­bency. Peo­ple in the state want a change and this sen­ti­ment has been more vis­i­ble on the ground for the past one and a half years. They want de­vel­op­ment and growth; look at the large num­ber of peo­ple who turned up for Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s two ral­lies in the state. (A third rally will be held to­day ). The three ral­lies that were sched­uled for the PM were done in such a way that the elec­torate across the state gets a chance to hear him. Crowds trav­elled and walked for kilo­me­ters to hear him speak, such is the craze for Modi. We also had (UP CM) Yogi Adityanath The de­mand for a sep­a­rate state is some­thing we do not sup­port, although we have as­sured the youth and the tribal groups that the party is aware of their prob­lems and will do what­ever we can do solve those.

Dur­ing my in­ter­ac­tion with var­i­ous tribal groups, a re­cur­ring com­plaint was of not be­ing heard. There was feel­ing that no one in the state or at the Cen­tre is pay­ing heed to them. We changed that. Af­ter the party’s in­ter­ven­tion we got the Union home min­istry to set up a moder­a­tor com­mit­tee that will ex­am­ine the is­sues raised by them and find so­lu­tions.

With the IPFT we will con­test the elec­tion on the ba­sis of a com­mon dec­la­ra­tion and fight our com­mon op­po­nent, the CPM. The gov­ern­ment has failed peo­ple on all fronts, whether it is jobs or de­vel­op­ment. Un­less and un­til peo­ple join their party (CPM), the gov­ern­ment does not get any work done, whether it is re­leas­ing money un­der MNREGA or pro­vid­ing med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties or even reg­is­ter­ing an FIR at the po­lice sta­tions.

And if you work for any

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