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Religion takes centre stage in Nagaland elections

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    Kohima, Feb 17: In the picturesque hill state of Nagaland, religion has become a key factor in deciding the fate of political parties in the upcoming state Assembly elections.

    The elections are scheduled on February 27 in Nagaland. The result of the 60-member Assembly elections will be out on March 3.

    church

    In the Christian-dominated state, while the prominent churches body has openly asked voters to reject "communal" Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the saffron party's new ally, Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), defended its partner stating that it's not a "religious body".

    Neiphiu Rio, the founder-president of the NDPP and one of the tallest politicians from the state, said that the BJP was not based on any religion.

    Rio, who is the CM candidate of the NDPP-BJP alliance, told Times of India, "BJP is not a religious party. It has only one agenda--development. As allies, we are confident of getting an absolute majority in the coming elections."

    Replying to churches body's attack on the BJP, the 67-year-old politician, who himself is a devout Christian, added, "I feel the Church was merely expressing its apprehensions about the spread of Hindutva forces in the Christian-majority state. It has every right to caution members of the community."

    Former chief minister Rio was declared elected unopposed to the Nagaland Assembly as his opponent withdrew his nomination.

    Recently, the all-powerful Nagaland Baptist Churches Council (NBCC) launched a scathing campaign against the BJP. In an open letter, the NBCC has appealed to all other political parties not to support the saffron party and its "brand of Hindutva politics" as India had experienced the worst persecution of minority communities in 2015-2017 under the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-backed BJP government at the Centre.

    In order to woo Christian voters, both the BJP and the Congress have offered free or subsidised trip to the holy land of Jerusalem if the parties are voted to power in Nagaland.

    In its manifesto, the Congress said, "By an act of the state government, a board will be established to facilitate minorities to visit the holy land Jerusalem at a subsidised cost."

    The BJP in its manifesto, released on Friday, promised free trips to Jerusalem for senior citizens. The ruling Naga People's Front (NPF), which was an ally of the BJP till recently, did not address religion in its manifesto.

    The Congress, in its manifesto attacked the BJP for being "communal".

    "The BJP is the political arm of the RSS and the Hindutva brotherhood driven by a devilish resilience to persecute all minorities. The single objective of this nexus of evil is to create a Hindu Raj. The NPF has pledged their soul to this force of evil to loot and plunder Nagaland."

    The Congress has put up only 18 candidates for the elections.

    In response, to both the Congress and the Baptist Church, the BJP manifesto said, "The BJP is a pro- people, people centric, pro-active development centred secular party with its ideological principles of "Integral Humanism" as propounded by its philosopher and guide Shri Deen Dayal Upadhyaya and... stand strong and committed for the harmonious co-existence of all communities and faiths within the country and with the global community."

    Nagaland Assembly
    Party 2013 Current Standing  
    NPF 38 45 Election Date : Feb 27 2018
    Counting : Mar 03 2018
    IND 08 08
    CONG 08 00
    NCP 04 01
    BJP 01 04
    JDU 01 01
    OTHERS 00 00
    Total 60 59 (1 Vacant)

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