Nagaland LS Polls: Riveting Contest Ahead?

By Moa Jamir

The election of Nagaland's sole Lok Sabha scheduled on April 19 is set for a triangular contest between candidates of the ruling People’s Democratic Alliance candidate the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), the Indian National Congress (INC), and an independent.

NDPP has nominated Dr Chumben Murry, a one-time Cabinet Minister for the Nagaland Parliamentary seat, who will be pitted against the INC’s S Supongmeren Jamir and Hayithung Tungoe Lotha, re-contesting again as an Independent.

By all account, the contest is heavily skewed in favour of the PDA’s candidate, with all the PDA partners NDPP, BJP, NCP, National Peoples’ Party, LJP (Ram Vilas), Naga People’s Front (NPF), RPI (Athawale), JD (U) and Independent legislators in attendance as the alliance officially kicked-off the electioneering for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls on March 25.

With such unanimous endorsement, the intending candidate Dr Murry while displaying the nomination ticket called the gathering a “historic” stressing that it “first in the history of the State to have a Lok Sabha candidate getting the support of all the 60 MLAs.”

“It is not only a show of strength but a show of unity,” he insisted on the unparalleled display of concord among all elected members in the Assembly.

Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio also vested confidence in the coalition and expressed hope that 60 elected members agreeing to support one candidate will serve to build a platform for resolving many other issues.

On the other end is the INC, unrepresented even in the State Assembly since 2015.  While Rahul Gandhi’s met Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra in January might have elicited nostalgia as well as generated enthusiastic response from the citizen, it can be attributed to a general hospitality bestowed on visitors, not necessarily votes for the parties.

However, as a parliamentary election, the party may resort to national issue having local implications, particularly the socio-religious matters.

Both camps are aware of this.

Congress is putting up a brave front by using the religion card, Dr Murry claimed during the launch. Congress nominee Jamir, meanwhile, appealed for casting vote in “favour of secularism, which only the Congress upholds and continues to fight on those objects. The party will work to protect the tradition, culture of the state and find a solution to the Naga political issue and Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) demand for separate statehood, he stated in an interview with the PTI news agency.

With religious issue along with a concerted attempt to highlight the ENPO’s issue, the Congress might have found two trump cards with potential electoral gains.

It would not be a cakewalk either for the ruling candidate if one goes by the 2019 results when the NDPP’s Tokheho Yepthomi narrowly won the contest polling in 49.68% of the votes against the INC’s KL Chishi 48.06%, with winning margins as low as 16344. The 14997 votes won by Tungoe and 2064 NOTA (None of the Above) could have wipe out the margin, not forgetting 4620 by the fourth candidate Dr MM Thromwa Konyak.

While the PDA candidate enjoys a clear advantage in terms of political backing, the upcoming election for Nagaland's sole Lok Sabha seat promises to be intriguing. The interplay of national issues with local ramifications could influence the voting trends, which are characterised by a relatively more "one person, one vote" and open process compared to Assembly polls. This unique dynamic makes the April 19 election to lone Nagaland Parliamentary Constituency a potentially riveting contest.

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