Kohima, Feb. 21: The last day of campaigning for the February 23 Assembly election in Nagaland witnessed a veritable mudslinging contest today, with the ruling NPF accusing the Congress of double standards and the latter alleging that the former was buying voters to ensure a comeback.
Slamming the Congress’s central leaders, including Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde who had visited the state for electioneering, for promising early settlement of the Naga political problem despite failing to arrive at a solution even after nine years of peace parleys with NSCN (I-M), chief minister Neiphiu Rio today asked, “What were they doing all these years and why are they promising a political solution only during the elections?”
Rio said such a promise was an insult to the Naga people, adding that their inaction all these years and their awakening now was nothing but an underestimation of the Nagas, who had fought central hegemony for decades and had suffered in the process.
Rio said only non-Congress governments at the Centre and the state could bring lasting peace to Nagaland.
He said while the central Congress leaders were talking about an early settlement to the Naga problem, former chief minister S.C. Jamir was against the ongoing peace process, as was clearly indicated in his letter to the home minister. “This dichotomy over the peace talks within the ranks of Congress has confused the people,” he said.
He said Jamir had even gone to the extent of calling NSCN (I-M) a “secessionist and unconstitutional body”. “There is no greater evidence of the duplicity of state Congress leaders over the peace talks. Nagas will give a befitting reply to the Congress at the hustings,” he said.
Jamir, in an alleged “secret” letter to Shinde that was “exposed” by the NPF today, had pointed to a nexus between Rio and NSCN (I-M), the sole objective of which was to exploit the Naga people, politically, economically, socially, culturally and even religiously.
“Their main, and perhaps the sole, objective is to preserve themselves under the cover of the so-called honourable and early solution of the Naga political problem, whereas their main intention is to perpetuate the status quo so that they can continue to exploit the people,” he said.
Jamir said the Rio government was plagued by corruption, maladministration and complete lack of governance. “We can safely say that governance has totally collapsed under Rio. The de facto authority is the collective leadership of NSCN (I-M), with the elected DAN government playing second fiddle.”
He said in Nagaland people did not bother about party manifestos or personalities of candidates; the fortunes of the candidates depended on money and muscle power, for which NPF was ready to use NSCN (I-M).
Rio, on the other hand, accused Congress of using central paramilitary forces and its agencies against NPF and non-Congress parties and said central agencies were targeting the party’s candidates, charging them with breaching the model code of conduct. He alleged that the Congress had been “dropping crores of rupees throughout the state using chartered choppers” to woo voters.
Expressing hope of forming the government again, Rio lamented that the Centre had neglected the state for decades. He said instead of criticising the DAN government, the Congress should have announced development packages for the state, which still has no reputed educational institutions even 50 years after attaining statehood.
PCC secretary (administration) Medokhul Sophie today urged people not to succumb to the lure of money offered by the NPF and to follow the diktat of the Nagaland Baptist Church to ensure clean polls. “They do not have any issue to influence the people, so they are using money power,” he said.