Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju on Tuesday said that elections are a constitutional process and that the government is bound by the Constitution. His remarks come a day after 11 political parties decided not to contest the Nagaland elections till the Naga peace talks conclude. The ruling Naga People’s Front will not contest either.

Rijiju’s Bharatiya Janata Party has suspended two of its members signing an accord against contesting the polls, which will be held on February 27. The party said that its members were not authorised to sign the directive without approval from central leadership.

“Holding of timely election is a constitutional process. Govt is bound by the constitution”, Rijiju tweeted. “Govt of India attaches utmost importance to the long pending Naga issue. We believe that peaceful election in Nagaland will facilitate the ongoing peace talks & strengthen our commitment.”

The agreement to refrain from standing in the polls was made after continued demands from tribal parties that the Assembly elections be postponed till peace talks conclude. After 20 years of negotiations between the central government and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), the largest armed group in Nagaland, a final peace agreement seems imminent now.

The Core Committee of the Nagaland Tribal Hohos and Civil Organisations has also called for a shutdown on February 1, which is when candidates begin filing nominations for the polls.

The Naga peace talks

For decades, Naga rebel groups have been fighting for Nagalim or Greater Nagaland. The Centre has been in talks with NSCN(IM), the largest Naga rebel group, since 1997, when the group signed a ceasefire.

In 2015, these talks got a boost after Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed a “framework agreement” with the NSCN(IM). While details of the framework agreement have not yet been made public, it is believed to acknowledge the “uniqueness of Naga history and culture” in exchange for NSCN(IM)’s respect for the “primacy of the Indian constitution”.

In December, the Nagaland Assembly had asked the Centre to find a solution to end the crisis before the elections. Earlier in January, various organisations in the state had urged Modi to defer the Assembly elections in the state.