Nagalandís constricted choice

The NPF is also accused of patronising the NSCN-IM, allowing their meddling in policymaking and making undue concessions. Despite these accusations, the NPF has been able to project itself as a proactive, youth-friendly government with a dynamic leader. The Congress, on the other hand, has a lacklustre leadership, appears divided, and even Chingwang Konyak, a senior leader from eastern Nagaland, resigned recently. This has clearly paralysed the Congress as a large chunk of its support base left with him.

The NPF came to power with the promise that the protracted Naga problem would soon be solved. Ever since, peace-hungry Nagas have been captivated by this promise. It is 10 years now, with the promise still at large. The NPF has used this to its advantage by stoking the flames, asserting that the final solution is near and the NPF is the party to make it happen. The Congress was unable to nurture this common hope when in power and in opposition. Politics in Nagaland, therefore, is a clear divide between national and regional aspirations. There is apprehension that if the Congress is voted to power, this hope will fizzle out and peace talks will reach a dead-end. However, the Congress has played its role as an opposition party by exposing corruption and the high-handedness of the party in power.

There are some positive trends. The Nagaland Baptist Church Council has gone on a warfooting for a clean election. Its influence is big, as 99 per cent inhabitants are Christians. Another positive feature is the open contempt for NSCN cadres' involvement in the campaign. This shows the empowerment of the once fear-stricken people.

The ultimate deciding factor is eastern Nagaland, with its bargaining power of 20 seats in the assembly of 60. The remaining districts show their political leanings and are easy to predict. Eastern Nagaland is turning out to be the silent kingmaker. Its demand for a separate state called "Frontier Nagaland" gives a new face to its bargaining power, and eastern Nagas may lean towards the party sensitive to their demand and willing to appease them like the NPF. If only the electorate would measure candidates and parties on the scale of development, stability, peace, education, employment, governance, gender equity, health and infrastructure and vote accordingly.

... contd.

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