Installation of opposition-less Government in Nagaland
What common citizen can do?

Dr. Aniruddha Babar *

The Nagaland Legislative Assembly election was held in Nagaland on 27 February 2023 to elect all 60 members of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly. The votes were counted and the results were declared on 2 March 2023. All the secrets have been revealed. All the cards have been shown. After the election, coalition of Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party and Bharatiya Janata Party formed the state government, with Neiphiu Rio becoming Chief Minister for the record fifth time.

The BJP retained its share in Nagaland in 2023. It has become a part of the government. The NDPP-BJP alliance bettered its tally by 3 to 33 seats from 30 last time when it formed the government with support of 4 other MLAs (2 from NPP, 1 from JD (U) and 1 independent. The BJP saw an upswing in its vote share in Nagaland, where it is led by its charismatic party chief Temjen Imna Along.

While Nagaland shed the ignominious record of being the lone state not to have even one woman legislator since Independence, having an opposition-less assembly for the second consecutive term has only helped Nagaland add yet another inglorious chapter to its political history – achieved by undermining the electorate’s verdict.

In all this drama, Nagaland witnessed the rise of two men with their own, individual distinct political stands. Kahuto Chishi Sumi, an independent candidate and Joel Naga, President of Rising People’s Party were defeated however, their presence and the voting share that they garnered gave a strong signal to the current politicians, supporters and masses that the ‘alternative political culture’ for the state of Nagaland has begun to be woven.

Kahuto chishi successfully managed to get 1,671 votes which accounts to 5.24% of the votes whereas Joel Naga who received 3,718 votes which accounts to 16.49% of the votes directly affected the vote bank of veteran politician R. Khing in Tseminyu constituency. It seems both Kahuto Chishi and Joel Naga firmly decided follow the age old formula of politics- “WILL LOSE, WILL CAUSE THE OPPONENT TO DEFEAT, WILL WIN” (Haarengay, Haraayengay, Jeetayangay).

Moreover, in current assembly election many educated and vigilant citizens belonging to various villages in the state of Nagaland successfully raised their voice and fought against the illegal, unconstitutional, criminal practice of declaration of “CONSENSUS CANDIDATE”.

Stand taken by such free, fearless and spirited Naga individuals sent a strong message to the “village councils” in the state that village councils being auxiliary to the administration under Sec 15 of The Nagaland Village Council Act 1978 was bound to be remained neutral in matters related to elections- in short, interference of Village council in election process is a criminal offence.

Nagaland State assembly election of 2023 is marked with the fall of noted, powerful leaders, rise of woman’s power and initiation of politics of ‘transformation’, also eventually turned out to be different than other elections in Nagaland that were fought in the past. The Frontier Nagaland Movement, which positively taken up its pace and reached to every nook and corner of the Eastern parts of Nagaland also cast its shadow over the election as we have seen the defeat of good number of sitting Members of Nagaland Legislative Assembly representing the various constituencies in the Eastern region of the state.

One of the biggest example of anti-incumbency factor especially in the eastern region is S. Pangnyu Phom, former minister of Health and Family welfare in the fourth Neiphiu Rio Ministry; who had been elected in Nagaland Legislative Assembly election in 2008, 2013 and 2018 from 50 Longleng A/C from Bhartiya Janata Party has been defeated by debutant A. Pongshi Phom in the General Assembly Elections 2023.

There are other examples too, however, the primary take away from all these observation is that the people of Nagaland are now awakened to their own ‘space’ in the nation which I believe can change the course of destiny of the Nagas in coming days.

While appreciating the “changing wind” in the state of Nagaland and saluting the spirit of “National citizenry” shown by the Naga people, especially well educated, young generation, I reiterate the wise words of my student from 6th Semester, Dept of Political Science.

I quote her verbatim- “THE TIME HAS COME TO TEST THE METAL OF ALL THOSE SITTING IN THE NAGALAND STATE ASSEMBLY. LET US MAKE THEM FULFILL EACH AND EVERY PROMISE THEY MADE DURING 2023 ASSEMBLY ELECTION CAMPAIGNS”. These words are very valuable. A young Girl courageously expressing her desire to make ‘her’ state government accountable tells us about the direction in which todays’ Nagaland is positively moving.

In the state Assembly elections, for which results were declared on March 2, the pre-poll alliance partners NDPP-BJP won 25 and 12 seats respectively, totaling 37 in the 60-member House. Other political parties, including NCP have won 7 seats, NPP 5, LJP (Ram Vilas), Naga People's Front (NPF) & RPI (Athawale) 2 each, JD(U) 1 and Independents 4.

This is the first time that Nagaland has witnessed the victory of so many political parties in the state Assembly elections. LJP (RV) and RPI (Athawale) are newbies in the State politics.

Despite current political diversity; which of course is a highly positive political development, it is tragic to observe that the current Nagaland state assembly is opposition-less. As Nagaland has witnessed its third opposition-less government with all the parties extending support to BJP-NDPP alliance, political analysts and commentators in the state have slammed the arrangement, calling it a mockery of democracy.

When there is no opposition or less opposition, the government itself becomes totalitarian where they will have absolute authority whatever they implement as no one will be there for an objection towards the decision of the government. When there is strong and effective opposition in large they keep in check every move of the government.

Moreover, it needs to be taken into account that, opposition or no opposition is primarily an electoral mandate and not the assembly's mandate and if the people-that elected political representatives ‘will’ that the latter or former is needed, then that needs to be adhered to and not on the whims of the elected. In short every MLA or MP must take ‘sentiments’ of the people from his constituency into account. The election for the government was meant for the welfare of the people of the state that voted for them through a democratic process.

Parliamentary democracy is characterised by a system of mutual accountability of the ruling party and opposition party and a much-crucial deliberative process. The Political Opposition in parliament and state assembly plays a crucial role in preserving the true essence of the democracy and raising the concerns of a larger number of people of the country.

The role of the opposition is to ensure that any government maintains the constitutional guardrails. As a polity following the ‘first past the post’ system of voting, the role of the opposition is especially significant. Engendering state assembly opposition that is the conscience of the people of Nagaland is important for the state of Nagaland to function as a true democracy. Modern generation of the Nagaland is very much aware of this fact.

Now, how to positively initiate checks and balance mechanism in the absence of opposition in the Nagaland State assembly? As a constitutionally empowered citizen of India, there are many ways to positively engage with the government. An individual can submit a suggestion to the government of Nagaland. The best way is to write letter to the secretary in the concerned ministry/department, however, on some occasions, there may be doubts as to which ministry is concerned with the suggestion.

In that eventuality, one may address their letter to the Hon’ble Chief Minister or his Excellency the Hon’ble Governor of Nagaland. These letters are usually acknowledged and followed up by the CMO or the Raj Bhavan as the case may be. A local MLA can regularly be contacted through personal meetings, letters or e-mails, he may be regularly reminded of his/her own promises and his/her party’s “Election Manifesto” and citizens can see that everything that is listed in the manifesto be implemented.

A common citizen is fully empowered to take necessary steps to establish the accountability of his government in the context of its legal and constitutional obligations. Moreover, a Public Interest Litigation-a potent weapon for the enforcement of “public duties” where executive action or misdeed resulted in public injury, and as a result any citizen of India or any social action groups can approach the apex court of the country under Art. 32 of the Constitution seeking legal remedies in all cases where the interests of general public or a section of the public are at stake.

A Public Interest Litigation can be filed in High Court (Under Art. 226)/Supreme Court (under Art. 32) against a State, Central Govt., Municipal Authorities. The definition of State is the same as given under Article 12 of the Constitution and this includes the Governmental and Parliament of India and the Government and the Legislature of each of the States and all local or other authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India.

The Constitution of India has empowered the people to positively engage with their government. There is no reason to feel sad to see opposition-less government. If an individual NAGA citizen desire to bring change in Nagaland he/she alone can do so by taking help of the Constitution of India and the legal mechanisms available at his/her disposal.

It is easy to establish accountability, when mind and heart is genuine.

* Dr. Aniruddha Babar wrote this article for
The writer is with Dept of Political Science, Tetso College, Nagaland
and can be contacted at aniruddha(AT)tetsocollege(DOT)org
This article was webcasted on March 28 2023 .

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