Kohima: Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, on Monday said the state government is not prepared to “physically fight” against the public, amid opposition from municipal councils, town councils, tribal hohos and civil society organizations with regard to the conduct of the general elections to the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) with 33% women reservation scheduled for May 16.
Interacting with journalists, Rio said that the state government, on one hand, is compelled to notify and conduct the polls as per the Supreme Court orders, while on the other, is not willing to go against the public, fearing 2017-like-violent protests that led to the death of two civilians and injuring several others.
“I’m the leader of the house, I am the chief minister. I want to tell you, we are following the Supreme Court’s order. But if the tribal hohos, civil societies, Naga public don’t want to, the state government is not prepared to physically fight with them, like before in 2017,” Rio told journalists.
CM Rio recounted the “big consultative meeting” held at the state banquet hall on March 9, 2022, with civil society organizations, tribal hohos, political parties, prominent NGO leaders and senior citizens where those in attendance appended on paper consenting to decisions taken on women reservation and removal of property tax.
“There was no reservation for chairpersons. Reservation is only for tribals and women but there is no percentage mentioned in the original law. But that amendment in 2016, has come in. So, we made a mistake and therefore the public also reacted. We thought we will amend it also if people want. But this time their complaint came out that it encroaches Art 371A, demanding repeal of 74th Amendment (sic),” Rio said.
He added saying, “It is no point for us to amend, deleting the property tax or deleting the percentage for chairperson because their demand is in toto-not against Art 371A but in strict demand of repealing the law and doing everything afresh” (sic).
The CM then said that the topic of conducting the civic body polls also cannot be debated in the house as the state government was only directing the conduct of polls as per the SC. The court, he said, has directed the state on February 14 this year to notify the polls by March 9. Again on March 14, the court directed the state to fully implement the election schedule notified by the state election commissioner. Any obstruction by an organization or citizen will be a breach of the SC order, Rio said.
He goes on to say that Nagaland was not exempted under the 74th Amendment and accordingly passed the Act in 2001. The three municipal councils and 36 town councils in Nagaland, along with several other CSOs and tribal bodies have been demanding an amendment to the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 before the municipal and town council polls.
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There has been stiff opposition demanding the amendment on tax on land and building, and that the Act infringes the special provision for Nagaland-Art 371A.
The NSCN-IM also recently objected to the conduct of the civic body polls saying that it coincides with the Naga plebiscite day.
CM refused to comment on the opposition made by the NSCN-IM saying that the issues of the state government and the NSCN-IM are “different”.
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