Note on a ‘historic’ victory

Moa Jamir

Perhaps the most significant surprise of the 18th Lok Sabha general elections, aside from the evident setback for the BJP, was the Indian National Congress (INC) clinching the Lok Sabha Nagaland Parliamentary Constituency. In a proverbial David versus Goliath battle, when the results for the April 19 election were declared on June 5, INC candidate S Supongmeren Jamir triumphed with a decisive margin of 50,984 votes over his nearest rival, Dr. Chumben Murry of the ruling NDPP-BJP-led PDA.

This victory is no mean feat, especially given the context in which the election was fought. The Congress last won an Assembly seat in Nagaland in 2014, securing eight seats. However, all eight elected members joined the then-ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) led by the Naga People’s Front, contributing to the trend of ‘opposition-less’ government in the state since then.

The INC’s track record in Lok Sabha elections over the past two decades has been even bleaker, with K Asungba Sangtam being the last elected candidate in late 1990s. Since then, the party contested every election but consistently lost by significant margins, ranging from 3.98 to 4.83 lakh votes. A glimmer of resurgence was perceptible in 2019 when the winning margin of the NDPP candidate was drastically reduced to 16,344. The 2019 election saw the BJP-dominated National Democratic Alliance (NDA) vying for a second term with a discernible majoritarian tilt.

When the election was announced, all the legislators of the current 14th Nagaland Legislative Assembly backed the ruling People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) consensus candidate, Dr Murry. Initially, the campaign was focused on increasing the 2019 winning margin, with victory considered a sure bet. Consequently, the Congress campaign was notably devoid of advertisements in local media, despite a perceptible presence on social media.

When the results were announced on June 4, it was clear that the people had elected Jamir. This resurgence, however, may not be solely attributed to the INC's own merits but rather to larger national political dynamics and other factors. National-level events, perceived or otherwise, undoubtedly influenced the voting patterns in Nagaland.

Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, which traversed some districts of Nagaland in January, certainly served as an initial trigger. However, this alone would not have been sufficient to drive the voting pattern. It is worth noting that while others switched allegiances, Jamir remained a loyal party worker since his one-time membership in the Nagaland Legislative Assembly in 2003, earning goodwill among supporters.

While voters in 20 assembly constituencies in Eastern Nagaland abstained, out of the 40 ACs that voted on April 19, Congress emerged victorious in 27. This speaks volumes about the mandate given to INC candidates across the state. While religious polarisation in national politics was a significant factor influencing the voting pattern, anti-incumbency sentiment cannot be ruled out. 

In the end, the INC's victory in Nagaland was the result of a combination of factors, including national political dynamics, local factors and others issues. 

Despite the historic nature of the win, it remains to be seen whether this victory marks a significant shift in the political landscape of Nagaland and signals a potential resurgence of the Congress party in Nagaland.

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