Dimapur: Naga people are not happy with Delhi over the continued irresolution of the Naga political issue, former chief minister Shurhozelie Liezietsu has said.
Instead of working according to the 2015 framework agreement that was signed between the government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM), the government has now “burdened” the Nagas with a second agreement signed with seven groups in 2017, he told ThePrint Thursday.
“Frankly, the Naga people are not happy with Delhi (on the political issue). Delhi is not serious about solving the issue. If they were, they would not have signed two agreements — one with the NSCN (IM) in 2015 which is known as the framework agreement, and then again one with the Naga National Political Group which comprised seven different factions in 2017,” he said.
“We know that the Indian government would not go for a piecemeal solution. Why then did they sign two agreements and burden the people of Nagaland with those? There is no solution unless a leader brings together everyone on one common platform. Amit Shah again said this time that solution will happen very soon. Nagas are not children. Why doesn’t the government of India talk to us man-to-man?” the Naga People’s Front (NPF) president asked.
The main issue pending resolution is the demand of a separate flag and a separate constitution of the Nagas that has been under discussion with the government for 30 years. Much was expected out of the 2015 announcement following the signing of the framework agreement but a solution remains elusive.
Liezietsu was the chief minister of Nagaland in 2017, leading a coalition of the Naga People’s Front (NPF) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for a few months. The then governor, R.N. Ravi, signed another agreement with seven political groups.
In 2018, while campaigning for the assembly elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the Naga political issue may be solved in the next few months.
The BJP and the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) won that election and formed the government. In 2021, the NPF joined the government to help in the resolution of the issue, thus making the assembly Opposition-less. However, the issue continues to hang fire.
This time again, the issue is one of the main election planks with some groups having demanded a solution before polls. The NPF has decided to fight the election on its own while the BJP and the NDPP are continuing their alliance. Polling for all 60 assembly seats will be held on 27 February, while the votes will be counted on 2 March.
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‘BJP has changed’
Back in 2003, the NPF, then led by current Chief Minister Neipheu Rio, was one of the first parties in the Northeast to ally with the BJP. Liezietsu, who now leads the party after Rio left to form the NDPP, says that the BJP “changed” after it came to lead the central government in 2014.
“We had been BJP allies for more than ten years and we stood by them when they were in the opposition in Delhi because that is what we do. But the BJP changed after they came to power in Delhi. We were happy that our allies were in power but then, they started to dictate. In 2018, they wanted changes made in the seats after we had finalised all our candidates. We knew that they were already in an agreement with another political party. But we have our own principles,” said Liezietsu.
He did not name the “other party” — NDPP — nor comment about the alliance between the chief minister and the BJP, with the national party choosing to ally with whichever party is led by Rio over the years.
The NPF is fighting in 22 seats in the 60-member assembly. Party sources say resource crunch was one of the reasons.
“We wanted to field only those candidates we were certain would win. I am expecting to win 12-15 seats,” Liezietsu said. Asked why he has decided to go it alone, he said with a laugh: “We are a small party. Nobody wanted to ally with us.”
‘Congress may win more seats’
Liezietsu did not comment about the possibilities of a post-poll alliance either with the BJP-NDPP or with the Congress that was reduced to zero seats and a mere 2 per cent of the vote share in 2018, according to the Election Commission. “The BJP-NDPP think they can form a government on their own. We will see after the elections. It is too early to talk about the government,” he said.
But he was positive about the Congress’s chances, despite his belief that the party has no organisation at the grassroots level. “The Congress is fighting the same number of seats as us (Congress is contesting 23 seats) but nobody can say which way people will vote. They have no organisation here, but they have parents in Delhi. They could even win more seats than us. But this is all presumption, really,” he said.
(Edited by Smriti Sinha)
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