A week after two women made history by being elected to Nagaland’s 60-member Assembly, Nagaland announced the holding of elections for 39 urban local bodies (ULBs) with 33% reservation of seats for women.
Opposition to the quota for women by various pressure groups leading to the death of two people in February 2017 forced the Nagaland government to cancel the civic election.
During its first meeting on Tuesday, the newly-formed Nagaland Cabinet headed by Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio deliberated on the conduct of the ULB elections by May this year with 33% reservation for women as directed by the Supreme Court. The apex court had set March 14 as the deadline for holding the polls.
On Thursday, State Election Commissioner T. Mhabemo Yanthan said the ULB elections will be held on May 16 with 33% quota for women.
“The filing of nominations will start on April 3 and end on April 10. The nomination papers will be scrutinised on April 12-13 and the last date for withdrawal of candidature is April 24. The votes will be counted on May 19,” he said.
The Nagaland Municipal Act came into effect eight years after Parliament passed the 74th Amendment to the Constitution in 1993 for the setting up of municipalities. Unlike the 73rd Amendment pertaining to the Panchayati Raj institutions, Nagaland was not exempted under the 74th as its town administrations were not part of customary practices protected by Article 371(A). The first and only civic body elections in the State were held in 2004 but without reservation. The next ULB elections were notified in 2012 but tribal bodies objected to efforts to reserve the seats for women.
In September 2012, the Nagaland Assembly passed a resolution to exempt the State from Article 243T of the Constitution which deals with reservation for women but revoked it four years later.
An attempt to hold the ULB elections with 33% reservation for women in 2017 triggered a backlash with protesters setting government buildings ablaze. T.R. Zeliang had to quit as the Chief Minister after the violence escalated and two people died.
Some women’s organisations approached the Supreme Court, which ordered the State to hold the elections with 33% reservation for women.
Organisations such as the Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA) have hailed the notification for the ULB polls.
“Women in Nagaland have not been in decision-making bodies but time and people’s mindsets are changing. We are hopeful that the tribal bodies have understood the law and the elections should usher in a new beginning for the towns and municipalities of Nagaland,” Rosemary Dzuvichu, the advisor to the NMA said.