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Editorial of the Day (9th May): The Nagaland’s Poll Issue

Context: Nagaland’s State Election Commissioner notified the schedule of elections to the State’s Urban Local Bodies (ULBs).

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The notification came four days after the Neiphiu Rio-led State Cabinet paved the way for holding civic polls stalled for 20 years because of opposition to the reservation of 33% of the wards reserved for women.

Nagaland’s Poll Issue Background

  • Nagaland had been the only state in India that did not reserve 33% of its ULB seats for women, as mandated by the 74th Amendment to the Constitution.
  • This was due to opposition from Naga hohos (traditional apex tribal bodies), who argued that such a quota would conflict with the special provisions granted to Nagaland under Article 371A of the Constitution.
  • The last ULB election in Nagaland was held in 2004 without reservations for women.
  • Subsequent efforts to conduct elections with a 33% reservation for women in 2006, 2012, and 2017 were met with protests and violence, resulting in the indefinite postponement of the elections.

Recent Developments

  • A breakthrough came with the Nagaland State Cabinet’s recent decision, led by the Chief Minister of Nagaland paved the way for the elections.
  • The State Assembly, in a special session in November 2023, passed an amended Municipal Bill that retained the 33% quota for women, which led to the scheduling of the upcoming elections.
Election Details
  • The elections are set for three municipal councils—Dimapur, Kohima, and Mokokchung—and 36 town councils.
  • The reservation specifics for women include eight out of 23 wards in Dimapur, six out of 19 wards in Kohima, and six out of 18 wards in Mokokchung, with provisions for rotation in future elections.
  • The nomination process will take place from June 7-11, scrutiny of nominations on June 13, and the last date for withdrawal of candidature is June 20, with results to be announced on June 29.

Resolution of Hurdles

  • The major issues that had previously stalled the civic polls included the reservation for the post of chairperson and the taxation on immovable properties.
  • The Nagaland Municipal Act of 2023 resolved these by removing both the chairperson’s reservation and the property tax, while retaining other forms of taxes, fees, and tolls.
  • This approach received broad acceptance after consultations with stakeholders.

Remaining Opposition

  • While most tribal bodies and village chiefs have accepted the amended Municipal Act, the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO), representing tribes from six eastern districts, has decided not to participate in the ULB polls.
  • Their decision stems from an ongoing protest against the failure of New Delhi to create the autonomous Frontier Nagaland Territory, rather than an issue with the reservation of seats for women.
  • This decision followed a similar boycott by these districts in the Lok Sabha polls.

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