Nagaland ULB polls: No local chemistry?

Moa Jamir

The announcement of elections to Urban Local Bodies (ULB) in Nagaland has disrupted the so-called ‘opposition-less’ government, as three parties have broken rank and declared their intention to contest the polls scheduled for June 26. These parties are the state units of Janata Dal United (JDU), Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) (LJP (RV)), and National People's Party (NPP). 

Among these, the NPP was the first to announce on May 10 its intention to contest in areas where there is a demand for its presence. Following this, the LJP (RV) announced on May 18 that it had candidates ready for the municipal and town councils. The next day, the JDU stated its intention to participate, contingent on the availability of capable candidates in various ULB. In the current 14th Nagaland Legislative Assembly, the NPP holds five seats, the LJP (RV) two, and the JDU one, making a total of eight seats among them.

Other parties in the Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA) include the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) with 25 seats, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with 12, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) with seven, the Republican Party of India (Athawale) (RPI (A)) with two, the Naga People’s Front (NPF) with two, and four Independents. It remains uncertain whether the BJP and NDPP, pre-poll alliance partners in the State Assembly, will contest the ULB elections on a seat-sharing basis or separately.

Recently, during the election to the lone Nagaland Lok Sabha Parliamentary Constituency on April 19, all 60 NLA members supported the ruling People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) consensus candidate, Dr Chumben Murry, against the Indian National Congress candidate, S Supongmeren Jamir.  While a government without an official opposition party is typically seen as an aberration and against democratic principles, Nagaland has shown a propensity for such political configurations, ostensibly to facilitate ongoing Indo-Naga peace talks. Similar arrangements were seen in 2015 and 2021.

Thus, the question arises as to why no such arrangement is seen in the ULB polls. This might mirror national-level political dynamics where parties form alliances at the national level but compete individually at the state level. In Nagaland, it could manifests as alliances at the state level and competition at the local level. The implications of these political manoeuvres on governance and wider political relationships in the state remain to be seen.

Nonetheless, the existence of opposition and contests among various parties at the local level represents a welcome break from the déjà vu and cynicism that has characterised recent state politics. Among others, such a scenario is expected to introduce checks and balances, an essential feature of democracy. However, it is worth considering whether the anticipated ‘windfall’ gains in terms of funds, previously withheld due to the non-holding of civic polls, have influenced this change in stance. If this move is driven by political opportunism, it could ultimately be self-defeating and reflect poorly on the state’s politics.

The upcoming ULB polls, taking place after many years, are historic in several ways, including providing a rare opportunity for women to participate politically in local governance. It is crucial that this significance is not overshadowed by political opportunism and status quo politics.

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