Primed for interesting contest

Primed for interesting contest

As the nomination date for the election to bye election and Lok Sabha elections in Nagaland ends, a clear picture has emerged regarding the number of candidates in the fray and their party affiliation.

Pending the scrutiny of nominations on March 26 and last date for withdrawal of candidatures on March 28, it’s a four-cornered contest for the bye election to 26-Aonglenden (ST) Assembly Constituency as well as the general election to 1 – Nagaland Parliamentary Constituency slated on April 11. The fates of the candidates will be known on May 23.

Assembly elections in the state always elicit animated debate and interest among the political class and plebeian alike; a phenomenon seldom found in Parliamentary elections. As the previous trends would indicate, the party in power in the state usually takes home the trophy. However, the current electoral scenes in Nagaland seems to present a picture dramatically different past precedents. The events leading to and subsequent passing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 before the announcement of the election schedule has piqued the interest of the electorate.

Consequently, four candidates are now in the fray for the lone state’s Lok Sabha election, the highest since 2004, when there were five candidates. The change of guard and the composition of the 13th Nagaland Legislative Assembly with the formal return of opposition after a brief interlude also ensure that even a parliamentary election would no longer be a cakewalk for the ruling dispensation.

The curtain raiser was Lok Sabha bye election in 2018 which saw a highly charged contest between the Naga People’s Front (NPF) and Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party’ (NDPP). The winning margin was drastically narrowed to 173,746, the lowest since 1996, despite increased voters.

The upcoming general election holds interest for two significant factors – the seeming revival of Congress in the state and the non-participation of two-time holders NPF. It is also symptomatic of the return of national parties as key players in general election as NDPP’s Tokheho Yepthomi is a consensus candidate of People’s Democratic Alliance, where BJP is a key alliance partner. The four-way contest, thus, is purely academic and it is more likely to be a straight fight between Congress and NDPP/BJP. Nationally, the current government led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will seek to secure another emphatic mandate, propelled more by nationalistic and religious rhetoric based on majoritarian narrative, despite failures especially in some economic policies.

Away from the national arena, the bye-election to the 26 Aonglengden A/C, undoubtedly is most riveting with a high stake four-cornered contest in the offing. With all the four candidates contesting for the coveted seat hailing from one village, there are legacies to uphold and honour to defend and a win for any contenders have potent symbolic and psychological significance.

While the ruling NDPP has honour at stake, the NPP would vie for its presence after it lost all the sitting legislators to the former; both their candidates have family legacies to uphold. For Congress, it is a fight to recover home turf-once its undisputed bastion and a win here would ensure a semblance of a presence in the 13th NLA. The opposition NPF will once again consider a win as a morale-boosting ‘resurrection,’ besides adding a crucial member to the party in the fluctuating political games in Nagaland.

With the high stake contests in the offing, each party would leave no stone unturned to return the verdict in its favour. The upcoming election in primed for an interesting contest.