Writing on the wall

Writing on the wall

In March 2019, when the nomination for the April 11 election to the lone Nagaland Parliamentary Constituency ended, The Morung Express commented that the “current electoral scenes in Nagaland present a picture dramatically different past precedents” generating animated debate and interest among the political class and plebeians alike. A phenomenon seldom found in Parliamentary elections.

As a result, it stipulated that while the party in power in the state usually takes home the trophy in parliamentary elections effortlessly, the April 11 election wouldn’t be a ‘cakewalk for the ruling dispensation.’

When the fates of candidates were declared in May 23, it was indeed the case, keeping supporter as well as apolitical observers from the state keenly glued to the neck and neck battle that ensued throughout the day between the ruling People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) consensus candidate from the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party’ (NDPP), Tokheho Yepthomi and Indian National Congress’ KL Chishi.

The result went down to wire eventually ending in favour of the sitting Member of Parliament Yepthomi, who was declared the winner late in the evening with a slender margin of 16344 votes or just 1.62% difference in the share of votes. Yepthomi got 49.73% of the votes polled against Chishi’s 48.11%.

The winning margin was lowest in 14 parliamentary elections held in the state since 1967. Only on two occasions before, the winning margins were less than 1 lakh (58511 in 1967 and 52785 in 1998). In the last two elections, (2009 &2014), the margins were over 3 and 4 lakh respectively according to the data on Election Commission website.

The precursor to present contest was the bye-election in 2018 for the same seat which also 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.

Does the 2019 result indicates an apparent Congress party resurgence in the state? Not necessarily, and the issue-based alliance with the NPF is a big contributing factor for increased vote-share.

For the ruling party, the retaining of the seat can be attributed to re-aligning of political landscape executed deftly by the Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio before the elections.

However, it is pertinent to note that it was a straight fight between INC and PDA/NDPP over various issues presumably affecting the electorates. The four-way contest, thus, was purely academic. The discussions and debates prevailing prior to the election had definitely influenced the results. The perceptible good performances of INC in ‘urban’ centres can be attributed to such prevailing circumstances.

While celebrating the positive outcome, the writing is clearly on the wall for the ruling dispensation. Notwithstanding the party’s affiliation, on issues considered detrimental to common interests of the people of the state, whether perceived or actual, the electorate has a strong proclivity to come together to make a statement. This is the most important take away from the recently concluded election to the Nagaland Parliamentary Constituency which the victorious candidate or party (ies) cannot afford to ignore.