Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju on Tuesday said that holding of timely elections is a constitutional process and the government is bound by the Constitution, after several Naga civil society groups and political parties have sought deferment of the February 27 Nagaland elections.
The Core Committee of Nagaland Tribal Hoho and Civil Organisations (CCNTCHOC) has threatened to impose a shutdown on February 1, if the Election Commission of India goes ahead with the issue of election notification for the 60-member Nagaland Assembly. It has sought an early solution to the seven-decade-old Naga insurgency issue before the elections.
"We believe that peaceful election in Nagaland will facilitate the ongoing peace talks and strengthen our commitment," Rijiju tweeted.
"Holding of timely election is a constitutional process. Government is bound by the Constitution. The government of India attaches utmost importance to the long-pending Naga issue," the Union Minister said.
Eleven political parties, including the ruling Naga People's Front (NPF) and the BJP, on Monday issued a joint declaration not to issue party tickets or file nominations for the state assembly polls in response to the call by various tribal Naga groups for 'Solution before Election'.
The joint declaration was signed by the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Janata Dal-United, Lok Janshakti Party, Aam Aadmi Party, Nagaland Democratic People's Party, Nagaland Congress, United Naga Democratic Party and the National People's Party at a meeting convened by the Core Committee.
However, Nagaland BJP President, Visasolie Lhoungu said that the party state unit will "abide by the directives of the party high command on the assembly elections".
He said the BJP has placed Kheto Sema, the party vice president under suspension for signing the joint declaration of the political parties to defer the elections without consulting the BJP.
"We have deputed him to attend the all party meeting convened by the Core Committee of Nagaland Tribal Hoho and Civil Organisations to defer the elections but he has signed the joint declaration on his own without consulting the party," Lhoungu said.
The Core Committee had cautioned any candidate or political party for defying the call of "Solution before Election", and violating the Joint Declaration of 11 political parties shall be treated as "anti-Nagas".
After a meeting with the Core Committee on Sunday, Naga separatists had issued a joint statement warning persons planning to contest the Assembly polls and asked them not to sabotage the historical talks by taking part in the electoral process.
The separatist National Socialist Council of Nagalim-Issac Muivah, which had signed the Framework Agreement to end Naga insurgency in August 2015 with the central government, had claimed that the decision to hold elections was bound to undermine the progress in the ongoing parleys.
In 2017, the Centre signed an agreement with a working committee comprising six Naga national political groups (Naga rebel factions).
This is the second time in recent years that assembly elections in Nagaland are heading for a boycott.
In 1998, the separatist National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) and Naga Hoho had called for a poll boycott after it signed a ceasefire with the Indian government in 1997.
However, the Congress party which was ruling Nagaland then had swept the elections by winning 53 of 60 seats, as other parties heeded the call.
On Saturday, the Core Committee had also written to Chief Election Commissioner O.P. Rawat, appealing to him to defer the February 27 elections in favour of early solution to the protracted Naga insurgency issue.
"The opportunity for a peaceful resolution of the Naga political issue has never been this favourable, as the political negotiations are in advanced stage and we can't afford to distract the focus from the (peace talks) process at any cost," the Committee had said in a letter to Rawat.