What makes 2023 NLA Elections a game changer?

Participants of the DD Dialogue Nagaland Election 2023 held at RCEMPA, Jotsoma on February 23. (Morung Photo)

Participants of the DD Dialogue Nagaland Election 2023 held at RCEMPA, Jotsoma on February 23. (Morung Photo)

Morung Express News
Kohima | February 23

“The rally points when we talk about Nagaland Polls is the question of statehood and the autonomy but this time round, it seems the voice of young Nagaland indicate that they want accountability when it comes to infrastructure and education as well.” These are thoughts expressed by Sakal Bhatt, Senior Consulting Editor & Anchor, DD News Delhi while interviewing Merentoshi R Jamir, Vice President & Spokesperson, NDPP even as she posed, “What makes this Nagaland Assembly Elections a game changer?”

The interview was held as part of the DD Dialogue Nagaland Election 2023 on Thursday at RCEMPA, Jotsoma. While the state is perhaps looking at the ruling dispensation of NDPP-BJP combined waiting to retain the power, she also noted that at the same time, two things that really stand tall in the Nagaland state politics are the fluid loyalty of the political leaders and the Opposition-less state.  

“We cannot predict what the future holds for us, but as a party we are very confident we shall retain the power in the state and that we will come back under the leadership of Neiphiu Rio and we will come back with bigger number than last time,” NDPP Spokesperson Merentoshi R Jamir stated. He also refuted rumours that if they come to power again, the chief minister will be from the BJP party.

Clarifying this, he said, “There’s no dispute as to who will be the Chief Minister. The BJP leadership at the Centre have been very clear that it will be under the leadership of Rio and both the parties are very firm on who will be the leader.”

On the promises the Party kept or did not keep in the last five years, he affirmed that they have managed to achieve some of those targets while citing the Nagaland Lokayukta and also setting up NSSB (Nagaland Staff Selection Board), which, he stated will give transparent opportunity for appointments.

While the anchor pointed out that there is a very serious problem of infrastructure, traffic jam, and that there are hardly any roads in the state, the Spokesperson however stated that over the past five years, there has been vast improvement in the roads with most of the national highways being upgraded to two lane roads.

“It will take time but we have promised that we would provide roads and we have provided. We have done a commendable job in ensuring that we have proper infrastructure, especially roads although there has been delay, which was beyond our control,” he said.

“Almost all the district headquarters are connected by double lane roads, earlier it was just intermediate or single lanes”, he supplemented and further added that “we have managed to deliver to some extent and we are ready to work the next five years given the opportunity by the electorates.”

On the lifting of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), he articulated that “we are continuing to impress upon the Government of India to completely remove AFSPA from Nagaland. The problem is that we share international borders and because we don’t have massive walls that separate us from the neighbouring countries, it is very porous.” While it might be difficult to immediately revoke AFSPA in the border areas, he said that in most urban and parts of Nagaland, it has been revoked and also exuded hope that with the final settlement, AFSPA will be a matter of history.

On the BJP Manifesto to set up premier institutes in Nagaland such as IITs and IIM, he said, “and these, we are not just promising, we believe in our partnership with the BJP and its commitment towards developing the Northeast.”

‘Opposition-less Government, a dangerous trend’

With the distinction of being the only state in the country without an Opposition, Senior Journalist & Editor, NEPS (North East Press Service), Okenjeet Sandham today asserted that “Opposition should be there in the next government” as it only stands at our disadvantage.

Pointing out that Opposition is the voice, who is going to question the government, he remarked that, “when there is no Opposition, that means we don’t know what exactly the government is doing in the state. So you cannot check corruption, you cannot check the government activities…this is a dangerous trend, precedence in the government and this should not be there in the next government.”

Sakal Bhatt, Senior Consulting Editor & Anchor, DD News Delhi had also concluded that the deliberations with the ruling dispensation and the experts scream out one fact that there is perhaps a void for the Opposition in Nagaland. She was anchoring a panel discussion on the upcoming Assembly Election as part of the DD Dialogue Nagaland Election 2023 that included Kakuto Chishi, Spokesperson BJP, Yitachu, Spokesperson LJP, Semratsula, General Secretary Central Women Wing, NPF and Dr Villo Naleo, Convenor, NBCC Clean Election Movement and Okenjeet Sandham as panellists.

Sakal Bhatt had also remarked, “If you have such unpredictable loyalties to your party, then how can you promise your loyalties to the people of Nagaland? This is a very state of politics here when the allies or opposition on the same platform are not able to take responsibility for the good doing or the wrong doing.”

‘Integrity matters even in politics’

The fact that there is a movement for clean election is indicative of rampant corruption in the state. Deliberating on the issue further, Dr Villo Naleo, Convenor, NBCC Clean Election Movement maintained that it is both ways even as he pointed out that “when we go to the grassroots, they will tell us, ‘go and tell the candidates not to buy vote.’ If we go to the candidates, they will tell us that it is the voters/electorates asking for money.”

“It is also a matter of integrity. Integrity matters even in politics,” he asserted in this regard while articulating that the way we define politics itself is a matter here. “We talk about our politicians and we really need to bring out what is in the core of their hearts but we are getting very less answers from them,” he further supplemented.

As a church based movement, he said they are taking the neutral position. However, they are executing their mission through the different associations under the church, which have their own assignments to take the message of clean election to the grassroots. In this regard, he also explained that grassroots means everyone who is part of the church and in the context of Nagaland with over 90% Christianity, everyone including politicians and voters are part of it.

That is why, he said, the church is the best platform to address the issue.

“Part of our mission is that we will cleanse the system that is going wrong right now. A lot of promises but then nothing is happening actually,” he lamented. However, the first step being undertaken is educating the people first about right voting and electing leaders who are all out for our people, who are there for development and representing us.

On how much influence the church have in the elections, he responded in terms of morality and ethics and maintained that the church is not an agency for booking criminals but rather a hospital for forgiveness. “When the church goes militant, it goes wrong,” he pointed out.

Okenjeet Sandham also observed that “we talk about the Naga political settlement, road issue, education, medical college, so many things we have been talking, but when election comes, then people start to forget all these including our educated youth and students, who have been talking all along.”

‘In this coming election, no party is going to get absolute majority’

LJP Spokesperson, Yitachu maintained that though it is their first entry in the state general elections, LJP will be able to project a lot of things while stating that “because in this coming election 2023, no party is going to get absolute majority and I don’t think even the NDPP-BJP is in a position to cross the magic figure.”

That gives room for every political party to play their role, to bring in their vision and their programme, he stated. As far as LJP is concerned, he said, “for us our focus is that we want to bring in investors wherever mineral exploration and development can take place. We want to unlock the borders, develop economic activities to engage the youths, and open up business and trade.”

Highlighting that 15 candidates from LJP are contesting in the upcoming elections, he exuded confidence in winning anywhere between 9-13 seats.

‘Confident because of our deliverance’

Citing several developmental works in the past five years, BJP Spokesperson, Kakuto Chishi exuded confidence that they will come back to power because of their deliverance. He was also asked about the timeline for the ambitious IIT and IIM to which he responded, “if you don’t vote us to power, how can we bring all those dream institutions? If we are in power, we can do our level best.”