IMPHAL, Jan 8: Barring the Naga People’s Front (NPF), the United Naga Council (UNC) has asked all parties not to field candidates in the 11 Naga-dominated assembly constituencies of the state for the January 28 assembly elections.
The NPF, a Nagaland-based regional party, is contesting the polls for the first time on the issue of “protecting tribal land and identity, expediting Naga peace process and establishment of an alternative administrative arrangement.”
A day after the UNC diktat came, Nagaland Chief Minister Nephiu Rio, with the top party leadership on Saturday, held a meeting in Senapati to announce the names of party candidates.
This new development has put the Election Commission on guard. State chief electoral officer PC Lawmkunga said the EC is worried over the UNC diktat. “After the militants’ diktat to Congress candidates, the UNC has issued an advisory in the hill districts that it will now allow any party, except the NPF, to field candidates. We cannot let the democratic exercise to be strangled. We have asked candidates from all other parties in the hill districts to file their nomination from Imphal instead of their respective district headquarters,” he added.
The CEO said once the candidates from the hill districts file their nomination, the EC will make foolproof security arrangements for them.
The Naga-dominated hill areas are in the four districts of Senapati, Ukhrul, Tamenglong and Chandel. The five hill districts have 20 constituencies in all of which the NPF is contesting in 12. Churachandpur is a hill district dominated by Kukis, Paites and Hmars – non-Naga tribes.
The CEO said all polling stations in 20 constituencies of the hill districts have been categorized as “hyper sensitive”. The Congress has fielded its candidates in all 60 assembly constituencies and has put as many as 11 Naga candidates in the Naga-dominated areas.
The debut of NPF in the assembly polls is being seen as stretching of the turf war between the dominant Meities who control the valley and the Nagas – the second biggest group holding sway in the hill areas.
Recently, Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio had said NPF was a recognized political party and can contest elections from anywhere in the country.
The ruling Congress is putting up a brave fight against the new twist in the ethnic battle.
MPCC president Gaikhangam, who is a Naga tribesman from Manipur, also feels that in a democracy anyone can canvass or fight elections from anywhere in the country.
“The NPF is no threat to Congress. We will have the majority and form the government. I don’t see any fallout from NPF contesting the elections in Manipur. What we want is free, fair and peaceful election,” he said.