Citizenship Bill binds rivals in 3 NE States

Rivals in the battle of the ballot across Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram seem to be bound by a common cause — opposition to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. They include candidates of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has vowed to get the Bill passed, if voted back to power.

There are State-specific issues, such as the elusive settlement to the Naga peace process in Nagaland and bridging the gap between the hills and plains dwellers of Manipur. But thwarting the Bill is the overriding issue, most intensely in Mizoram where a regional party went to the extent — inviting a notice from the Election Commission in the process — of seeking the right to secede if the Bill is passed.

The three States have four Lok Sabha constituencies among them — two in Manipur and one each in Mizoram and Nagaland. These seats, represented by those on the country’s fringes, matter when mainstream political parties or alliances need support to form the government at the Centre.

Except for Nagaland, where the sitting MP belongs to the BJP’s ruling ally Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), the three seats in Manipur and Mizoram are currently held by the Congress. On paper, the BJP has the edge over the Congress by virtue of ruling Manipur and Nagaland with regional allies.

Though the saffron party has fielded a candidate from the minority Chakma community in Mizoram, it holds the advantage because the State is ruled by a partner in its anti-Congress forum, the Mizo National Front (MNF).

“The Citizenship Bill is bad news for the indigenous people of Mizoram, where the presence of illegal migrants is a major issue. We cannot let this happen,” MNF candidate C. Lalrosanga, a former Director General of Doordarshan, told The Hindu . His prime rival, Lalnhinglova Hmar, too has declared war on the Bill. An independent candidate backed by the Congress and the regional Zoram People’s Movement, he is a media professional and football administrator.

Struggling for existence after the Assembly election last year, the Congress in Nagaland appears to have been buoyed by the return of 21 veterans to the party fold. One of them is former Chief Minister K.L. Chishi, who is the Congress candidate for the lone Lok Sabha seat.

The Bill is bad news for the indigenous people of Mizoram, where the presence of illegal migrants is a major issue

C. Lalrosanga

MNF candidate

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