Nagaland records almost ‘Zero’ Percent voting in 6 Districts

Nagaland recorded 'Zero' voter turnout in the first phase of elections.

Eastern Naga People’s Organization called to ‘abstain from voting’ in demand for autonomy, in 6 districts of Nagaland recorded Zero percent voter turnout in the 1st Phase of General Elections.

The six districts in Eastern Nagaland are Kiphire, Longleng, Mon, Noklak, Shamator, and Tuensang. They represent over 30% of the state’s population and hold 20 out of the 60 seats in the Nagaland Legislative Assembly. The decision to “abstain” from elections aligns with a resolution made in February by the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) and tribal organizations in these districts. They decided to only participate in central or state elections if the Government of India resolves the issue of creating a Frontier Nagaland Territory through the Ministry of Home Affairs before the announcement of the Model Code of Conduct for the Lok Sabha polls.

Almost ‘Zero’ voter turnout in six districts of Nagaland after Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) calls to abstain from polls over autonomy demands. (Image: Prabhat Khabar)

Voting for Nagaland’s lone Lok Sabha seat took place Friday, where the contest was between the NDPP’s Chumben Murry, the Congress’s Supongmeren Jamir, and Independent Hayithung Tungoe Lotha.

On April 18, Nagaland’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) issued a show cause notice to the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO). The notice stated that the call for a total shutdown across Eastern Nagaland “attempts to use undue influence at elections by interfering with the free exercise” of residents in those areas to vote.

Also Read: India kickstarts Its General Elections 2024 with First Phase of Voting

In his response to the CEO on Friday, ENPO president Tsapikiu Sangtam explained that the shutdown was a “voluntary initiative by the people.” He clarified that the ENPO does not have the authority to enforce its orders and resolutions, and it operates based on voluntary participation and consensus among the Eastern Nagaland people.

The demand for autonomy for the six districts has been a longstanding issue. It resurfaced before last year’s Nagaland Legislative Assembly polls in February. As early as August 2022, the ENPO had decided to only participate in the Assembly polls if their demand for a separate state was met.

The Chief Election Officer of the northeastern state has issued a notice to the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) for disrupting the electoral process. The top election official stated that the group had tried “to use undue influence… by interfering with the free exercise of those residing in Eastern Nagaland areas to vote in the general election.” The ENPO is thus “directed to show cause… as to why action under subsection of Section 171C of the Indian Penal Code should not be initiated.”

The relevant subsection states that “whoever voluntarily interferes, or attempts to interfere, with the free exercise of any electoral right commits the offense of undue influence at the election.”

On March 30, the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) conducted a lengthy closed-door meeting with 20 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and other organizations. During this meeting, they reaffirmed their decision to completely abstain from participating in the Lok Sabha election. The Eastern Nagaland Legislators’ Union, which comprises the 20 MLAs, had requested the ENPO to reconsider its decision.

The next day, the ENPO informed the Election Commission of India about their decision not to participate in the election. They emphasized that this decision was made after careful consideration and “reflects the sentiments and aspirations of the people of Eastern Nagaland, who have tirelessly advocated for our rights and aspirations within the framework of democratic governance.” They clarified that their decision was not an act of defiance against democracy.

The ENPO also gave an abstention call before last year’s Assembly election, which was withdrawn after an assurance from Union Home Minister Amit Shah. 

Nagaland has one Lok Sabha seat, represented by the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party’s Tokheho Yepthomi since a by-election in 2018. The NDPP is an ally of the BJP.

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