Parties meet poll official

New Delhi: A day after members of 11 political parties signed a joint declaration with Naga civil society groups in Kohima to defer polls, four of the party representatives attended a pre-scheduled meeting with Nagaland's chief electoral officer Abhijit Sinha on Tuesday.

Sinha told The Telegraph that the ruling Naga Peoples Front's representatives reminded him of the declaration, and this was also "mentioned in passing" by the representatives of the BJP, Congress and Janata Dal (United).

"We are aware of the declaration as it has been circulated on social media but my office is yet to officially receive it. Today's meeting was routine and was one that takes place a day before nominations are filed. The representatives asked me regular questions about the nominations. The NPF asked whether I was aware of the declaration... I said I am aware of it but that is not going to change anything. We are working on the schedule declared by the Election Commission on January 18," he added.

Elections to the 60-member House are on February 27 for which nominations close on February 7.

Counting is scheduled for March 3 and the term of the Assembly expires on March 13. The Election Commission is bound under Article 172 of the Constitution to conduct polls before this date, unless an Emergency is declared.

The Centre signed a peace accord with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) in 2015 to end the 64-year-long insurgency in the state. The details of the deal are yet to be revealed.

The BJP has suspended its members who signed the joint declaration on Tuesday with the Core Committee of Nagaland Tribal Hohos and Civil Organisations.

A similar boycott was called before the 1998 polls, a year after the Centre had entered into a ceasefire with the NSCN (I-M). Only the Congress and Independents participated, with the latter winning 53 seats and 43 seats going uncontested. The turnout was 78.95 per cent.

During the Assam Agitation, only the Congress, Indian Congress (Socialist), CPI, CPM, Plain Tribals Council of Assam and Independents participated in the 1983 Assam Assembly polls, in which elections took place only in 105 out of 126 seats went uncontested and only 32.74 per cent of the electorate cast their votes.

The Congress won 91 seats. With the BJP reaffirming its decision to contest polls in Nagaland, others may follow-risking the ire of insurgents and civil society groups.

Sinha said, "We have asked for security forces to be deployed early. Tomorrow (Wednesday), we will receive 45 companies of central forces, followed by another 10 before February 5. The state police can mobilise at least 50 companies."


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