The much publicised Christian values have failed on one front in Nagaland—the all pervading corruption. In the words of an eminent Church leader Rev Dr Zelhou Keyho, General Secretary of Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC), “Elections have become not the backdoor but the front door of all the corrupt systems that are there”.
While speaking to Organiser at his Kohima residence, Reverend admitted that 90 per cent of Government authorities—officials and Ministers in Nagaland—are Christians. “But the saddest part of the story is we have landed into a predicament wherein Christian values are forgotten the moment people go out of Churches”.
“There is a dichotomy between spirituality within the church and spirituality outside church,” added the Reverend. He admitted there is more often a critique, “What is the Church doing” in a Christian society like Nagas. Rev Keyho says, “It could be a legitimate question but it’s not that we are not preaching, we are not teaching”, he said. “The NBCC is struggling with that and the Clean Election movement launched by NBCC is one way of addressing the issue from a Christian perspective to fight Corruption,” he added.
The Church leader avoids answering a question on which party or political formation would be rated as the ‘most corrupt’ in Nagaland. Rev Zelhou also maintained that corruption in elections in Nagaland did not start just 10 or 15 years ago. It perhaps started in the early or mid-1970s. “Maybe it turned bad in the 1980s, but now in the new 21st century it has really deteriorated”.
Corruption Came From Two Ws
Corruption is considered a part of life in Nagaland. In the 1980s and the 1990s, a few sociologists used to claim that ‘corruption’ came to Naga life from outside. The refrain being two Ws—Wine and Wealth—were used indirectly by the Government of India to break the spinal cord of Naga insurgency.
Though a ceasefire has existed since 1997, the solution to the Naga issue or insurgency is still far off. The talks now stand virtually stalled after the NSCN-IM raised the demands for a separate flag and a Naga Constitution.
The Government of India has rejected the demands of nationalists among Naga leaders like SC Jamir, a former Governor to Maharashtra and Gujarat. The nonagenarian told this journalist, “There is no need for another Constitution within the Indian Constitution”.
Jamir, who has personally met Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Shri Amit Shah, says, “All issues have been discussed and finalised since 2019 and now we are only waiting for a solution”. On the issue of corruption, Jamir expresses his concerns in an eloquent manner. “We have a scenario where the constitutional Government is inefficient and corrupt while the extra-constitutional elements are many. Their sole objective is to establish their supremacy through inter-group conflicts and illegal extortion which has brought upon the people of the state unmitigated miseries,” wrote veteran Jamir, in a newspaper article.
On the political front, the BJP is a partner of the ruling NDPP led by Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio. The State of Nagaland is now heading fast towards Assembly polls by Feb-March 2023. The BJP and the NDPP of Rio have inked a seat sharing deal of 20:40 ratio in favour of the regional party. Many in the saffron party are unhappy about it and a few of them have been pressing the central leadership to review the seat share deal. Some of them say, “The BJP should not go to polls as a smaller partner to the regional party. Moreover, the corruption charges and other issues of governance have created an anti-incumbency mood against the Rio regime as well as the BJP”.
Since 2018, the saffron party has been in alliance with Rio with half-a-dozen Ministers in the State Cabinet. Deputy CM Y Patton is the BJP floor leader in the Assembly. However, as of now the central leaders have urged the State unit to follow the coalition dharma.
Meanwhile, BJP organisational general secretary BL Santhosh, who visited Nagaland last month, has urged the party leaders and workers to put up their best show and focus on winning maximum—even 19-20 seats the BJP will contest. In 2018 also, the BJP strike rate of 12 out of 20 seats was much better than NDPP’s 18 out of 40 seats it contested. Even in August-September 2022, there are numerous ticket aspirants willing to contest on BJP ticket.
One such aspirant said on the condition of anonymity, “The BJP has overwhelming acceptance among Naga voters now. People are for development and they are impressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s developmental politics and good governance”.
Some of ticket aspirants in the BJP have also demanded immediate replacement of the State unit BJP president. Among others, the NPF is a vital political force. But it has been marginalised recently after as many as 21 MLAs defected to join Rio-led NDPP. Other parties such as the Congress and JD(U) are considered weak players, as is a regional party NPP of Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma.