TODAY -

Two key organisations NTC, GB body not invited to President's reception in Nagaland

Nirendra Dev *



Prime Minister Narendra Modi had personally applauded the Nagaland GB body in June. One can call it a 'deliberate slip'. But eyebrows can be raised about the political intent behind such a move if any. The Nagaland Tribes Council (NTC) and Federation of Gaon Burrahs (village elders) have not been invited for the Nov 2 mega show at Kohima which will be graced by India's first woman tribal President Droupadi Murmu.

"In honour of the Honourable President of India, a civic reception is being organised at Capital Cultural Hall, Kohima on 2nd November (2022) at 3 pm," says an official circular from Home Commissioner Abhijit Sinha.

The list in the circular dated Oct 28, 2022 includes 22 organisations and civil society bodies but has excluded NTC and GB Federation. Eyebrows are raised as these two organisations have been vocal from time to time either on matters relating to the peace process and an early solution or took positions not pleasing some political forces either overt or covert.

One senior social worker said, "It could be a mistake...even in the past corrigendums have been issued for such lapses". But he said, "There is still time and these two organisations should be included. I hope the organising committee and the Nagaland government will consider the matter seriously".

An office bearer of the Lotha Hoho also maintained it would have been good if invitations were extended to these two organisations. Central Naga Tribes Council (CNTC) president Lanu Imchen when contacted said, "It will be good if GB federation is invited for the event especially because President Murmu is country's first tribal woman holding the high post".

The CNTC is a body of three tribes - Aos, Lothas and Semas. The formation of NNPG, an umbrella body of militant groups, to a large extent was due to the initiative of the NTC and GB Federation. Of course, it will be embarrassing for both the NTC and GB federation to approach the government so that they are invited.

As many as seven Naga tribal communities are part of Naga Tribes Council (NTC). It may be mentioned here that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the central government holds the GB federation of Nagaland in high esteem.

In June this year, interacting with a group of young women students from Nagaland in his office, Modi had applauded the rich cultural traditions associated with the 'Gaon Burrah' - village elders - institution in the state. This was also seen as a big political statement. The Modi government has been steadfastly working for empowering local panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir as well.

It may be noted the 'importance' given to Naga Gaon Burrahs did not go down well with many established players in the existing power politics structures during the tenure of R N Ravi as the Governor.

## Can Nagaland elections be deferred ?

It could be a sheer coincidence or a case of journalistic malady -- that is, reading too much between the lines. Will Nagaland elections due in Feb-March 2023 deferred? Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio told a public function at Kezoma village that if a solution to the Naga problem is reached, the state polls could be deferred.

Of course, he is possibly stating the obvious. There is no big deal in it; and hence the statement did not make headlines even in most local newspapers. Of course, one daily was an exception. An important reason could be, let us all take the word of a politician - and that of Rio's calibre and a successful Neta - with a pinch of salt.

However, something unusual happened in BJP circles in Delhi. An informal paper/note circulated among some party leaders missed the name of Nagaland. The small note talks about the saffron party's focused approaches for assembly elections in Tripura, Meghalaya, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Mizoram (all due in 2023) and even Telangana (which is due in 2024), but Nagaland was a miss.

This could be a genuine error nevertheless. However, there are certain pros and cons involved which is making observers wonder whether elections will be postponed. Firstly, from the BJP's point of view, election preparations are in full swing in two other northeastern states Tripura and Meghalaya.

In Tripura, a senior UP leader has been named as election in-charge while in Meghalaya, three key central leaders and one office bearer from Assam are traveling the state and have kick-started the poll-related works. Uttar Pradesh BJP leader Mahendra Singh is credited with the party’s success in the Assam Assembly elections of 2016.

The ruling BJP in Tripura also set up a 16-member election management committee. As evidence of BJP's approach that there are already talks that a few NPP legislators of Conrad Sangma's outfit could be jumping ship and embracing the Lotus party. The formal withdrawal of support to the Conrad Sangma government in Meghalaya by the two-MLA strong BJP is yet to be announced.

But hard politics have commenced on ground. Of course, in Nagaland, for reasons best known to Amit Shah and Himanta Biswa Sarma, the saffron party would be contesting only 20 seats as against 40 by poll-enthusiast NDPP of Rio.

Moreover, the BJP was expected to name a new state unit president but nothing has happened and more than party insiders -- most ticket aspirants from outside the party fold would be upset about the inertia from a party otherwise led by hyper active PM Narendra Modi.

So, one argument is -- what is there to prepare for 20 seats when the onus will be on Chief Minister Rio to ensure BJP picks up a few seats. Left to NDPP, the BJP should be happy winning 3-4 seats only but Narendra Modi's image should be made use of by the so-called NDPP-BJP coalition.

To add to the confusion BJP has appointed constituency-level in-charges in all 60 segments including Northern Angami II.

Politics can be more often a strange game - the mortal media may not understand it at all.


* Nirendra Dev wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is based at New Delhi and can be contacted at nirendev1(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on 31 October 2022.



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