The Big Story:

The Bharatiya Janata Party is treading tricky territory in Nagaland. On Monday, 10 political parties including the ruling Naga People’s Front and even the BJP signed a bond saying they would not contest the state elections slated for February 27. This agreement came in the aftermath of an appeal from the Core Committee of Nagaland Tribal Hohos and Civil Organisations calling on political parties to stay away from the elections and instead insist on a resolution to the peace process first. The appeal was endorsed by the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), the largest armed group in the state and the primary stakeholder in peace talks. “No election without solution” was the refrain of all in support of staying away from polls.

Yet the following day the BJP issued a clarifications, saying that its representatives in the state did not have the authority to sign the bond and that it would go ahead and contest elections anyway. It even suspended the two representatives who were at the meeting. Though many in the BJP state unit seem concerned about having to contravene the demands of the Core Committee and all other political parties, the national leadership seems determined to go ahead with the elections. Ram Madhav, the party’s general secretary, has said there should be “elections for solution”.

After the elections were notified on January 31, state BJP leaders headed to Delhi to discuss its approach with the national leadership, with others presuming that no candidates would file nominations in the meantime. Meanwhile, the Council has called for a bandh on February 1.

The BJP must act very carefully here, in part because this tense moment is a result of its own actions. Three years ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed a “framework agreement” with the NSCN (I-M), and all but announced that the conflict was over. Yet ever since, there has been little clarity on what actually is within that framework, and the rumours around it have led to violence. The BJP’s lack of transparency on the matter has contributed to the tense situation.

But there is also a tremendous opportunity here. Despite some tensions, the situation seems poised for an actual solution. Almost all armed Naga groups, which were often fighting each other, as well as tribal bodies and civil society groups have all managed to come together to present a unified front. A moment like this is not to be frittered away in pursuit of short-term political gains. Even if the BJP believes it will be better poised to offer a solution if it controls all the states where Naga populations live, there is no guarantee that this degree of unity will continue to hold.

The BJP has always claimed that, unlike the Congress, is a party that is not run by a High Command. Yet, here this is exactly what has happened. The party would do well to listen to its state leadership. If the elections do proceed, there is the very real danger of violence. The BJP must be careful not to put petty electoral gains above the chance for something more lasting.

The Big Story:

  • Ipsita Chakravarty reports on the BJP’s mixed signals, after the Naga groups united to demand Assembly polls be deferred.
  • A final settlement of the Naga question may be around the corner. What shape will it take? Arunab Saikia examines the issue.


  1. “One would have expected the Survey to devote a chapter on the cost of two major reforms that have been undertaken by the Government which have cleansed the system for sure and made it more efficient, but left a cost-trail which ultimately gets reflected in the lower GDP growth number,” writes Madan Sabnavis in Hindu Businessline.
  2. R Jagannathan in Swarajya says it is time for the Bharatiya Janata Party to quit the ruling alliance in Jammu and Kashmir, saying “power without purpose is the worst form of self-delusion and totally self-destructive too.”
  3. Narendra Modi might be the only world leader whose Twitter use is more problematic than Trump’s, writes Tim Hume in Vice.


Don’t miss

Vinita Govindarajan writes about the Nagaswaram, an instrument that took South Indian temple music to its pinnacle, but is now dying out.

“But today, nagaswaram artists are hardly allotted prime slots during the concert season at music sabhas. The artists earn their living by performing primarily at marriages and functions outside the temple. ‘The artists who aspired to make a living through the art were forced to move out of villages,” said Ram. Now, in most temples, the appointment of temple artists is merely perfunctory – done with little consideration to music, tradition or meaningful livelihood, he said. “They [the artists] are just nameless placeholders. The carefully chiselled out traditions have suffered a slow death.’

According to Krishna’s book, the reduced influence of Brahmins in temples after Periyar’s self-respect movement in Tamil Nadu eventually culminated in the takeover of temples by the government of Tamil Nadu. While the movement was a necessary social awakening, he notes, ‘It did not lead to a more egalitarian Karnatic music environment, instead spurring it to become even more insular… The government, which took control over the temples, hardly contributed to the development of quality nagasvara or tavil vidvans. The end result has been tragic – lack of support for those Karnatik musicians who once breathed musical life into the temple and society.’”