BJP dumps NPF, inks seat-sharing deal with NDPP

Union Minister of State for Home and senior BJP leader Kiren Rijiju on Saturday said the BJP has entered into a seat-sharing agreement with the newly-floated National Democratic People’s Party (NDPP) ahead of the February 27 Nagaland Assembly polls.

Rijiju, BJP in-charge for Nagaland elections, accompanied by NDPP supremo former Nagaland Chief Minister and Lok Sabha MP Neiphu Rio, said that while the NDPP will contest in 40 seats, the BJP will contest in 20 seats for the election to the 60-member Nagaland Legislative Assembly.

Rio had recently resigned from the NPF and floated the new regional political party, NDPP.

“I think the BJP and NDPP will be able to get absolute majority in Nagaland in the forthcoming polls and form the next government in the state,” said Rijiju, addressing a press conference at a hotel in Guwahati.

The BJP was a part of the Naga People’s Front (NPF)-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) government in Nagaland. The NPF which is the ruling party in Nagaland has also been a partner of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) since 2003.

“The NPF is not our enemy and BJP’s relation with NPF is very old. However, we are not having an alliance with the NPF this time,” said Rijiju when asked about the BJP’s pact with the NPF.

“In the past BJP was just a junior party in Nagaland. However, as the BJP has become a major political force in Nagaland, the seat sharing agreement with NDPP became a necessity ahead of the polls,” he said, adding that although the BJP initiated talks with the NPF earlier it however did not converge to seat-sharing level.

Asked about the stalemate in Nagaland due to the poll-boycott call given by the NSCN (I-M) and the Core Committee of Nagaland Tribal Hohos and Civil Organisations (CCNTHCO), the Union Minister of State for Home said that he has appealed to all the groups including the over-ground and underground organisations to cooperate as holding of election is a constitutional requirement.

“We have conveyed the message to all, including the NSCN (I-M) and other groups, not to vitiate the election atmosphere in the state ahead of the polls. The ceasefire ground rules must be maintained by all groups at any cost and any departure from the ceasefire will not lead to positive results,” said Rijiju.

BJP’s decision to dump its 15-year-old alliance partner- NPF, was taken in New Delhi on Friday at a meeting between BJP president Amit Shah and Neiphiu Rio in the presence of BJP’s Nagaland president Visasolie Lhoungu, the party’s state media cell convener, K James Vizo said at Kohima on Saturday.

The BJP is the only party till date to announce that it will contest the election.

Eleven parties including the ruling NPF on January 29 had decided not to contest the February 27 polls, agreeing to the demand of tribal bodies and civil society groups to resolve the protracted Naga political problem first.

Later, the BJP had announced it would contest the polls.

The state BJP sources here said the party’s grassroots workers were against the party forging any pre-poll alliance with anyone.

It may be mentioned that after the BJP broke rank, NPF and Congress too made it clear that they will contest the state assembly elections.

These developments come less than a week since the dramatic all-stakeholders meeting in Dimapur, which decided that none of the political parties would contest the polls.

In a press note issued by the NPF, it said the Government of India repeatedly pointed out that holding timely election was a constitutional requirement and that it was bound by constitutional provisions. Therefore, it became apparent that the February 27 election will be a reality.

The NPF went on to blame lack of consensus amongst NGOs and themselves as the reason they have to take part in the polls. They, however, did maintain that their “commitment towards a solution of the Naga political issue shall continue as in the past”.

The Congress decided to blame BJP and NPF, and said, “Since all political parties, led by the NPF and BJP, are gearing up to take part in elections, Congress will soon be releasing its 2018 Election Manifesto.”

Congress especially blamed the BJP for forcing elections “against the wishes of the people”. It also blamed the party of planning to “flood the state with money to lure candidates and buy out the voters”. “They simply brushed aside the Joint Declaration of January 29 and made a scapegoat out of their senior party functionaries,” said the Congress’ statement.
BJP was the first party to announce its candidates for the polls. The party would contest the elections “for the cause of solution” to the Naga political problem. This came soon after Union Minister of State and BJP’s man-in-charge of Nagaland elections, Kiren Rijiju said, “The Union Government is sensitive about the sentiment of Naga people and is committed to an early solution to their issue. The government will implement the solution as soon as it is reached.”

The Congress and NPF’s willingness to declare candidates is because they do not wish for a redux of 1998. Back then, all parties, apart from Congress had boycotted the polls after a similar call by the Naga apex tribal body, Naga Hoho. Congress won 53 seats, while independents got seven. NPF was de-recognised and their symbol frozen for boycotting the polls.

It is expected that all the major parties would file their nominations before February 7, the last date for doing so.

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