The cry of Solution before Election was first pitched by the Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang in the fall of 2017 and later on the 12th Nagaland Legislative Assembly on the 15th December 2017 passed a resolution on the same requesting the Government of India to defer the forthcoming Assembly elections till a solution to the protracted Indo-Naga problem was found. Taking a cue from this stand of the State government, Naga civil society organisations in a consultative meeting called by the NNPGs (Naga National Political Groups) held on the 9th December 2017 at Niathu Resort, Dimapur, adopted the Solution before Election slogan.
Solution before Election is a paradigm shift in strategy and focus. While the view that nothing short of sovereignty is acceptable to Nagas finds resonance in many quarters, Nagas by and large weary of the 70 years of national struggle have come around to the view that the Naga aspiration of nation-state cannot be accommodated in one go. The Indian position that sovereignty and integration are non-negotiable has convinced the Nagas that their aspiration has to be within the ambit of the Indian constitution at this point of time. Thus, the larger Naga aspiration is to be fulfilled in a step by step process.
At the moment, the GoI-NSCN (IM) talk is 20 years in the making. The GoI has also started negotiation with the NNPGs- a collection of 6 different factions. The coming together of the 6 factions and rumours of the NSCN (IM) talks about to reach a conclusion spurred the State government in adopting the 15 December Resolution. Meanwhile, serious debate started in the State on Solution before Election; that settlement of the Naga issue, not elections, should be seriously pursued given the fact that having ‘10 different governments’, including the State government, is taking a serious toll on the health of the State. Also, keeping in mind that election is a very costly affair involving several thousand Crores for a small State like Nagaland, apex tribe hohos and civil society organisations like the ACAUT started appealing to the PM Modi to defer election in the State scheduled for February 2018. Beginning 7th January, organisations like NTC, CNTC, Nagaland GB Federation, Naga Hoho, NSF, ACAUT, NMA, ENPO, and almost all the apex tribe hohos started appealing to the PM to defer the Naga election.
Flummoxed by the intensity of the appeals, the ECI which was supposed to announce election in the States of Nagaland, Tripura, and Meghalaya on the 12th January delayed its announcement. Hectic parleys between Naga civil bodies and the ECI, the Home Ministry started. Even the NNPGs and the NSCN (IM) pitched in. Invariably, rumours started floating that certain Naga politicians had met Home Ministry bigwigs requesting them to hold elections in the State. Expectedly, the ECI announced Naga elections on the 17th Jan, following which the NNPGs cut short its talks with the Interlocutor R.N.Ravi and returned home.
Following the tense situation after the election announcement, the NJCF (Nagaland Joint Christian Forum) led by its President, Rev. Zelhou Keyho initiated a consultative meeting of all the political parties, apex tribe hohos, and the mass based organisations on the 22nd Jan 2018 to salvage the situation. While nothing concrete materialized, all the civil society organisations agreed to have another round of meeting on the 25th January at Hotel Japfu, Kohima. This meeting immediately agreed to form a committee by the nomenclature CCNTHCO or Core Committee of Nagaland Tribe Hohos and Civil Organisations with Theja Therieh as the Convenor. At the outset the CCNTHCO resolved to appeal to the political parties not to participate in the election under any circumstances. The committee also agreed that the political parties or the candidates cannot be forced not to participate in the election but any appeal has to be at the conscience level. Armed with this mandate, the CCNTHCO invited all the political parties to Hotel Japfu on the 29th January. After threadbare discussion, 11 political parties, namely, UNDP, ruling NPF, BJP, INC, NDPP, Nagaland Congress, NPP, JD (U), LJP, NCP, and AAP made the collective declaration that they will not issue party tickets or their candidates file nominations for election to the 13th NLA. For the first time in decades, there was hope that the Naga question was to be finally resolved.
No sooner had the ink of the BJP state executive member who had appended his signature dried, Kheto Sema was disqualified by the State BJP President. Soon the BJP announced that it would contest elections. Since the 29 January Declaration had also resolved that any political party reneging on its commitment would be declared anti-people, the CCNTHCO was forced to openly blame the BJP for throwing the first stone at Naga aspirations. Again, the 29th Declaration had also resolved that if the ECI went ahead and issued its election notification on the 31st January, then a total state wide bandh in protest against such notification would be imposed by the CCNTHCO on the 1st February.