As Nagaland prepares to go to polls on February 27, BJP has unfolded its game plan to pre-empt trouble in its sensitive area-eastern Nagaland. Party president, JP Nadda made some promises for its development while releasing the election manifesto. The reason for giving priority to this region is not far to seek. And it is the lack of development which is the reason for ear markings. Even as one stops short of criticising the BJP which has been in power at the Centre since 2014, a deeper dive into Nagaland’s law and order situation will provide a clue to this belated waking up. Nearly 40 percent of the polling booths of the state are “critical”. As for the genesis of this “generosity,” it can be traced back to a resolution passed in August 2022 for abstaining from the 2023 Assembly elections. Since it was the influential Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation that had passed it, the saffron camp was loath to bin it. The call of staying away from the polls was given to buttress the demand for a separate state namely Frontier Nagaland which would include six districts of eastern Nagaland. The apex bodies of all the different Eastern Naga tribes resolved to abstain in support of the ENPO resolution.
Six districts demanded to be included in Eastern Nagaland Kiphire, Longleng, Mon, Noklak, Tuensang, and Shamator. Seven tribes including Konyak, Khiamniungan, Chang, Sangtam, Tikhir, Phom, and Yimkhiung live here. Incidentally, these tribes account for 30 percent of Nagaland’s population. Out of 60 seats in the Assembly, 20 are from this area considerably adding to its political importance. The BJP poll manifesto promised to set up an Eastern Nagaland Development Board with a special package for its development. Proportioning of budget provisions in keeping with the population of Nagaland was also promised by Nadda. The ENPO further submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister’s Office in November 2010 demanding a separate state with special status and provisions. Development deficit was the rationale for the demand behind the separate state. This deficit is the principal demand among other causes for dissociation. The “lack of administration” is stated to be the cause of disparity in development. The area of the districts was outside the authority of the British administration.
Nagaland’s average literacy rate is 80 percent while it is 56.99 percent in Mon. When the state of Nagaland was created in 1963, owing to its backwardness this region was placed under Governor’s Rule for 10 years. Mon and Tuensang have the lowest worker participation in Nagaland. In this rural area, agriculture remains subsistence even 60 years after attaining statehood. It needs no far sight to see that the development process and democratic aspirations of the people of this region were dashed. In Nagaland, BJP has an alliance with the main party NPP. In the February 27 polls, out of the 60 assembly seats in the state, the NPP is contesting in 40 seats while the BJP is fighting in the remaining 20 seats as per the pre-poll understanding. The recent moves by the center in Nagaland are aimed at helping the BJP to get more seats in Eastern Nagaland by defeating the other two regional parties NDEP and NDPP. As for Congress, it has very little influence in the region though once Nagaland was its stronghold.