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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 921

Is Nagaland heading for “Hung Assembly”?

By Oken Jeet Sandham

When Neiphiu Rio parted with SC Jamir at the end of the 2002, few months before the 2003 Assembly polls in Nagaland, we knew that the former would mobilize with whatever means available to dislodge the latter’s political foundation.

For quite some time, Jamir also became persona non grata of the most powerful Naga underground group – NSCN (IM). And at last, the outfit had found a man who could play havoc in the world of Jamir’s politics. But this grand Naga politician preferred to say his political rival was not NPF but the “NSCN (IM).”

When Jamir faced electoral debacle in 2003 Assembly elections, he attributed for the humiliating defeat to NSCN (IM). “This election (2003 Nagaland elections) is unique that I was fighting all along with the NSCN (IM) and not with any political party,” Jamir told the press hours before his resignation as the Chief Minister of Nagaland in 2003.

Rio had done his homework while he was still the Home Minister in the Jamir Congress Ministry to take on the giant Congress leader (Jamir). But this could only be done by joining opposing political party. At last he found a political platform – the Nagaland People’s Council (NPC).

The party had to rechristen its name to “Nagaland People’s Front (later its nomenclature has been changed to Naga People’s Front)” apparently to absorb Rio and his then bosom friend Kewekhape Therie, who was also a powerful Minister and strong Congressman then under the Jamir Congress Ministry.

Knowing fully that the NPF alone could not take on the powerful Congress in Nagaland during 2003 Assembly elections, they started working out to go hand in hand with other non-Congress political parties like BJP, SP, JD (U), etc. which are all national political parties and they were ruling at the Center then under the BJP-led NDA. And finally the idea worked under the name and style of the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN). I still remember that prominent leaders like George Fernandez, PA Sangma, Geogong Apang, Radhabinod Koijam, etc. came down to this dusty Kohima Local Ground to formally declare the Common Minimum Program (CMP) of this non-Congress Alliance. One advantage of NPF was the Center was ruled by BJP-led NDA Government under the Prime Ministership of Atal Behari Vajpayee at that time.

In the 2003 Assembly elections, the NPF could manage to win only 19 seats while the DAN constituents like BJP, JD (U) and SP won 7, 3 and 1 seats respectively, whereas the Congress suffered electoral debacle with 21 seats. Another regional party, Nationalist Democratic Movement (NDM) created history in this election by winning 5 seats. Independents won 4 seats. For the first time, the DAN Ministry led by Neiphiu Rio was installed on March 6, 2003.

But it did not take long for the 7 sitting Congress MLAs to defect to the ruling NPF and most of them became Cabinet Ministers in the Rio Ministry. This was done apparently before the new Anti-Defection Law came into force. Under this new Anti-Defection Law, defection wasn’t possible. Thereby the NPF strength finally rose to 26, while the Congress reduced to 14.

In the 2008 Assembly elections, the NPF tally increased from its earlier 19 seats to 26, while performance of its constituents did not improve. The BJP could win with 2 seats only, and surprisingly the NCP got 2 seats for the first time. The Congress could win 23 seats this time. With these 2 seats each from the BJP and the NCP, the NPF-led DAN could reach half mark in the House of 60. They were more encouraged later after 6 out of 7 Independents joined them. And for the 2nd time, the DAN Ministry led by Rio was again installed creating some sort of history in the State on March 12 2008.

Again after some months, the ruling NPF allegedly convinced 4 sitting Congress MLAs – Kejong Chang, Azheto Zhimomi, Aloh and Deo Nukhu – to resign from the Membership of the Assembly and face by-elections on NPF tickets. These 4 Congress MLAs resigned and contested in by-elections on NPF tickets and all of them won. So, now the NPF strength rose to 30. By this time, the BJP 2 and NCP 2 MLAs were also allegedly convinced to merge with the NPF. They did it. Finally, the NPF strength alone rose to 34, an absolute majority now in the House of 60.

But this unusual political episode developed cracks in the relationship with the other National Parties viz the BJP, NCP, etc. Yet the party like BJP had no option but to remarry with the NPF to keep its arch rival – the Congress – at bay. For the NCP, they can go either with NPF or the Congress. The NCP is one of the principal constituents in the Congress-led UPA Government at the Center.

As such, the NPF, though formed the Governments led by them in 2003 and 2008, could not reach the magic half mark on their own in these elections (2003 and 2008) in the State.
Naga political issue topped in every election in the State and without which the electioneering ingredients were never complete. But this time elections, if one looks at the general moods of the masses, they seemed not interested to listen to the music and rhetoric made by political parties on the Naga political issue. We have seen these masses more concerned for their future wellbeing and developments.

Surprisingly, till the announcement of the Nagaland Assembly elections, everybody including the leaders of the DAN particularly the NPF leaders heaped praises upon the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh for his sincerity towards finding solution to the longstanding Naga political issue. And one should not forget at the very least that the leaderships of the NSCN (IM), the principal negotiator in the talks with the Center, had already acknowledged the sincerity of Dr Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of the Congress-led UPA Government at the Center, towards finding solution to the Naga issue. In fact, everyone was praising the Central leaders. Literally, no one was seen speaking against the Center. Their only point was urging them to expedite the solution. The changes in the minds of the neighbors were also seen. This is one of the significant developments as far as Naga peace process is concerned.

It is also remarkable that these elections also went along with extensive “Clean Election Campaign” of the NBCC. Many may say otherwise after seeing series of seizures like money, arms and ammunitions from the contesting candidates, their agents and workers, etc. on the eve of the polls, the fact is citizens’ mindsets were impacted by this “Clean Election Campaigns.” Let us encourage these “Campaigns” and not devalue after seeing these incidents. Because in many places, youth were seen volunteering on the polling day to see that “One man one vote” was strictly enforced and to some extent, it was successful.

Bottom-line:

Nevertheless, the 2013 Nagaland Polls for which the results will be declared on February 28, the people seemed giving a “fractured verdict.” Before the arrest of Imkong L Imchen, then State Home Minister by the AR personnel after money, liquor and arms and ammunition were allegedly found from his vehicle, the Congress position was better in his Mokokchung district. But keeping him briefly under judicial custody converted the whole political environment in his home district- Mokokchung – into his advantage and the party as well.

The difference between the NPF and the Congress may be in the range of 3 to 4 seats only this time. At least 1 BJP seat and another 1 RJD seat are expected to emerge this time, while the NCP may get 3 to 4 seats. The BJP has pre-poll alliance with the NPF under DAN while the NCP had no pre-poll alliance with any party. And around 7 to 8 Independents may come out victorious this time. This time elections were held in 59 constituencies after the unfortunate sudden demise of Congress candidate of Tuensang Sadar –I, P Chuba Chang, MLA.

Now supposing if one minuses 3 NCP + 8 Independents + 1 BJP + 1 RJD = 13 from 59 seats, the remaining 46 seats will be divided between the NPF and the Congress. And say if the difference between the NPF and the Congress may come in the range of 3 or 4, one can come to some conclusion. It is likely that the NPF may get 2 or 3 seats more than the Congress, say supposing if NPF gets 24 seats, then Congress may get 22 seats or if NPF gets 25 seats, then Congress may get 21 seats. But as this writer writes, re-polling in 9 polling stations (February 26) are taking place, as such it is expected again differences in assessment and perhaps the outcome from these re-polling will decide the fate of future Government in the State whether they will be the NPF-led or the Congress-led Government.

In all likelihood, the State is heading for a “hung assembly”- a very unpredictable political scenario is gradually emerging as no party is likely to get majority this time.

- Asian Tribune -

Is Nagaland heading for “Hung Assembly”?
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