Single issue, two parties, one of them divided

National

Nagaland's elections are being fought from a single platform, the resolution of the 60-year-old conflict with the Centre, but one of the two principal opponents is also fighting its own battles.

"We have a joke in the NPF (Naga People's Front, the ruling party)," says NPF president Dr Shurhozelie Leizie-tsu. "We have only one chief ministerial candidate while the Congress has four or five."

"S C Jamir's brother, S I Jamir, himself is contesting and projecting himself for the post," says an analyst. "Another Congress candidate, Tokheho Yepthome, has been canvassing that if the Congress wins he will be chief minister. K L Chishi is vying for the chair as well as I Imkong."

Also reflecting the division within is the number of independent candidates, 39, many of them after being denied Congress tickets.

Thomas Ngullie, 50, is one, a former minister in the party since 1981. He headed the state Congress for eight years and chaired the Northeastern Congress Youth Coordination Committee for another six. He was minister of information and broadcasting.

"I have always been loyal to the Congress, but the high command in its wisdom decided to drop me," he says. "A lot of the decisions in the state Congress are being taken by older leaders who frankly have outlived their political viability."

On the primary issue, Leizietsu says, "We met the PM, the UPA chairperson, the Home Minister and even BJP leader Sushma Swaraj and we told them clearly that we want a solution to the Naga problem. What the solution will be is up to them, all we want is that it be honourable for us." Dr Shiirhozelie adds the Centre is making a mistake by talking only to the NSCN-IM. "There are six or seven factions on the ground. More over they haven't included civil society organisations such as the Hoho."

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