Parties focus on Naga identity in a bid to woo voters
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