Church admits electoral corruption, people favor BJP
High-profile Christian values have failed on one front in Nagaland – corruption.
In the words of a prominent church leader, Reverend Dr Zelhou Keyho, General Secretary of the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC), “elections have not become the back door but the gateway to all corrupt systems that exist”.
He said that it is true that 90% of government authorities – civil servants and ministers in Nagaland are Christians. “But the saddest part of the story is that we have landed in a difficult situation where Christian values are forgotten as soon as people come out of churches.”
“There is a dichotomy between spirituality within the church and spirituality outside the church,” the Reverend told ‘Organiser’ at his residence in Kohima.
He said that it is true that 90% of government authorities – civil servants and ministers in Nagaland are Christians.
“But the saddest part of the story is that we have landed in a difficult situation where Christian values are forgotten as soon as people come out of churches.”
He admitted that there is more often a criticism – “what does the church do” in a Christian society like the Nagas.
Reverend Keyho says, “That might be a legitimate question, but it’s not that we don’t preach, we don’t teach,” he said, adding, “NBCC is grappling with this and the Clean Election movement launched by the NBCC is a means of approaching the question from a Christian point of view to fight against corruption”.
The head of the Church avoids answering a question about which party or political formation would be considered “the most corrupt” in Nagaland.
Reverend Zelhou also argued that corruption in Nagaland elections did not happen or started only 10 or 15 years ago. It may have started in the early or mid-1970s.
“Maybe it went wrong in the 1980s, but now, in the new 21st century, it’s really gone downhill.”
“Little by little, we are gaining ground. We also preach and teach many young people. Children over the age of 12 are coming… we also broadcast academic programs on these issues to young students in private schools to start,” he said.
Corruption is considered part of life in Nagaland. In the 1980s and 1990s, some sociologists asserted that “corruption” came from outside in the life of the Naga. The refrain being two W’s – Wine and Wealth – were used indirectly by the Indian government to break the spinal cord of the Naga insurgency.
Although a ceasefire has existed since 1997, the solution to the problem or the naga insurgency is still a long way off. The talks have now all but stalled after the NSCN-IM raised demands for a separate flag and a Naga constitution.
The Indian government rejected the claims. Nationalists among Naga leaders like SC Jamir, a former Governor of Maharashtra and Gujarat, told this reporter, “There is no need for another Constitution in the Indian Constitution”.
Ninety-one-year-old Jamir, who personally met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, said: “All issues have been discussed and finalized since 2019 and now we are only waiting than a solution”.
On the issue of corruption, he expressed his concerns quite eloquently.
“We have a scenario where constitutional government is inefficient and corrupt while extra-constitutional elements are plentiful whose sole purpose is to establish their supremacy through inter-group strife and illegal extortion that has caused absolute miseries to the people of the state,” one veteran said. Jamir, wrote 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 rapidly heading towards assembly polls by February-March 2023.
The BJP and Rio’s NDPP signed a 20:40 seat-sharing agreement in favor of the regional party. Many members of the saffron party are unhappy with this and some of them have pressured the central leadership to review the seat-sharing deal.
Some of them say: “The BJP should not go to the polls as a small partner of the regional party. Moreover, accusations of corruption and other governance issues have created an anti-incumbent climate against the Rio regime as well as the BJP.”
The saffron party has been allied with Rio since 2018 with half a dozen ministers in the state cabinet. Deputy CM Y Patton is the floor leader of the BJP in the assembly.
However, from now on, the central leaders urged the state unit to follow the dharma of the coalition.
BJP Organizing General Secretary BL Santhosh, who visited Nagaland last month, urged party leaders and workers to put on their best show and focus on maximum victory – even 19 to 20 seats that the BJP will contest. Also in 2018, the BJP’s strike rate of 12 out of 20 seats was much better than the NDPP’s 18 out of 40 seats it was contesting.
Even in August-September 2022, many ticket aspirants are ready to participate in the BJP ticket.
One of these aspirants said on condition of anonymity that – “BJP is now widely accepted by Naga voters. People are for development and they are impressed with Prime Minister Modi’s development policy and good governance “.
Some of the BJP ticket contenders also demanded the immediate replacement of the BJP chairman from the state unit.
Among others, the FNP is a vital political force. But he was sidelined recently after as many as 21 MPs defected to join the Rio-led NDPP.
Other parties such as Congress and JD(U) are seen as weak players, as is the regional NPP party of Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma.