In a departure from the party’s Standard Operating Procedures, on February 12, the Nagaland state unit of the BJP issued a statement in which they alleged that religious polarisation was a strategy of some people in Nagaland during elections. They clarified that they were not ‘blaming’ the Naga Baptist Church Council (NBCC) but that there were some leaders in the church who were trying to ‘confuse’ the people. The statement also clarified the BJP’s stand that the party is not ‘communal’ and that the secular character of the Constitution of India cannot be charged by any political party even if it enjoys absolute majority. The BJP’s appeal sounds hollow given its past record in other states such as Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, as well as Haryana and Maharashtra.
The BJP statement came after the General Secretary of the NBCC had on February 9 written a public letter to all political parties in Nagaland asking them not to compromise their values for the sake of ‘money and development’. The letter alleged that there were forces inimical to Christianity working towards making their presence ‘known and seen’ in Nagaland. He also alleged that several members of the Baptist Church from other countries had been denied visas and were even barred from entering India. The letter then mentioned that the situation was not the fault of the ‘Central Government’, since the Central Government has no interest in the Nagas no matter how much they try to convince the people.
The Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR) on February 11 made similar allegations except it did not pull any punches. Rather than make veiled references to a particular political party, the NPMHR directly went after the Government of India. The NPMHR alleged that India has deceived the Nagas and proved itself unreliable to its own agreed principles. The NPMHR state that an honourable solution to the Naga issue would be mutually beneficial. According to the NPMHR the issue should be settled “on the broad-based laid down parameters from that of respecting the unique history and situation of the Nagas towards a Peaceful Co-existence between Indians and Nagas as two entities at the earliest possible time.”
Though the letter from the NBCC did not specifically name any party, it did not leave any room for doubt about which party it was referring to. The BJP has seen its stock rising in Nagaland. Neiphiu Rio the NDPP Chief Ministerial candidate and alliance partner of the BJP won from the Northern Angami II constituency without a single vote cast. His opponent, Chupfuo Angami from the ruling NPF withdrew his candidature at the last-minute surprising his own party members. The BJP has approached the election on the plank of ‘peace and development’. However, the NPF has raised the debate of ‘insider and outsider’. The big irony here is that the NPF was a partner to the NDA and BJP before the election. It was only after the creation of the NDPP that the BJP switched partners to back Rio.