Political Trust

While there has been political opinions expressing doubts over the resolutions passed last year by the Nagaland Pradesh Congress Committee (NPCC) on the Naga political issue, the Congress high command in Delhi may have to clearly state on the poll manifesto of its Nagaland unit with regard to the affirmation calling for the implementation of the 16-point agreement in Toto. This will include clause 13, which is related to integration of contiguous Naga inhabited areas—a contentious issue and one of the main sticking points in the dialogue between the Government of India and the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagalim. This is therefore a major policy change of the Nagaland Pradesh Congress Committee (NPCC). But the answer that people are now seeking is whether the All India Congress Committee (AICC) has also taken an honest and deliberate decision to go in for this mid-course correction or whether this is just a catchphrase for electoral dividends. Hopefully, we can get a clear picture when central leaders such as Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh come to Nagaland for election campaigning in the coming days.

It is however not surprising to note the opposition coming out especially from Manipur with regard to the decision calling for Naga integration in the Congress manifesto. Already, political groups like the Manipur Peoples Party (MPP) and social organization such as the powerful United Committee Manipur (UCM) have voiced their protest over the mention of Naga integration in the Congress manifesto. Besides this anger, there is confusion over the ambiguous stand of the Indian National Congress (INC) over the issue. While no doubt the NPCC stand on the integration issue, if at all sincere, is a welcome development for people in Nagaland; however the uncertainty arises from the fact that its counterpart Congress party in Manipur had contested the last assembly elections (which it won) on the plank of safeguarding the territorial integrity of Manipur. Assurance to this effect was given by the Chief Minister I. Ibobi Singh and none other than Congress President Sonia Gandhi to the electorates of Manipur. And even the Ibobi Singh Cabinet in a hurriedly convened meeting on February 11, 2008 brushed aside any suggestion of the AICC endorsing such a move on integration as mentioned in the 16 point agreement. Given that AICC officials were present during the official release of the Congress poll manifesto recently in Kohima, this only adds to the ambiguity of the INC’s take on the entire issue of Naga integration. 

The question that needs clear answers are whether the AICC (INC) has endorsed this policy shift vis-à-vis its Nagaland State unit and also whether the AICC has calculated on the possible consequences that it will face in the neighbouring States ruled by the party i.e Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh all having substantial territory inhabited by Nagas. These are important questions and both the electorate of Nagaland and the people of Manipur in particular and the North East in general, need to know. Having said this, if the INC’s stand on the integration issue is merely for electoral gains then it is quite unbecoming of a responsible party toying with the emotions of the public. But if the Congress is at all serious and committed to carry forward this policy shift beyond electioneering purpose, then the party’s stand will no doubt be welcomed by the Naga people. Both ways, the true character of the Congress party will be tested in the coming days.