BJP Gets New Partner In Nagaland But Won't "Dump" 15-Year Ally

The BJP said that the electoral understanding with the NDPP does not mean its ties with the NDF -- its ally of 15 years -- are over.

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Kiren Rijiju announcing the BJP's seat sharing agreement with NDPP ahead of Nagaland elections

Guwahati:  Ahead of the Nagaland assembly elections, the BJP today announced that it would contest the polls in alliance with the newly formed National Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) led by former chief minister Neiphiu Rio.

Accepting that the BJP tried to forge a pre-poll understanding with the Naga People's Front (NPF) -- its ally of 15 years -- but "seat sharing could not be finalised", the BJP said that the electoral understanding with the NDPP does not mean its ties with the NDF are over. The BJP is part of the current ruling coalition in the state that is led by the NPF.

"NPF has been an NDA ally since 2003. But in the past too, despite having an alliance, we never had formal seat sharing. We used to contest assembly elections separately but we had a post-poll alliance. Let me make one thing clear -- we are not severing ties with NPF," said union minister Kiren Rijiju, who is the BJP's election in-charge for Nagaland.

As per the understanding, the NDPP will contest 40 of the 60 assembly seats, and the BJP will field its candidates on 20 seats. Nagaland votes on February 27.

Asked if the BJP was open to a post-poll alliance with the NPF, Mr Rijiju said, "NDPP and BJP are going to have absolute majority. So there is no need for speculation".

The announcement comes at a time civil society groups in Nagaland are asking for a peace deal before assembly elections are held. The Nationalist Social Council of Nagaland (Issac-Muivah), a Naga insurgent group, signed a framework agreement with the centre in August 2015 but contours of the deal have not been disclosed so far.

A declaration to boycott the elections was signed by all political parties in the state nearly a week ago but the BJP later backed out.

"We are committed to solving the Naga problem. The election will facilitate that. The prime minister has shown his willingness and his understanding of the Naga problem. We must give him the breathing space to enforce what he has envisaged -- that the Naga problem must be solved," said Mr Rijiju.

Asked what made the alliance with BJP possible, Mr Rio, who quit the NPF last month, said, "trust".

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