In the ever-shifting scenario of Nagaland state politics, Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio stands as a seasoned tactician who celebrated his 73rd birthday on 11 November, still holding an unparalleled fifth term at the helm of Nagaland state. Yet, the question lingers: what fuels Rio’s enduring political saga, given the alleged divisive nature of his leadership?

The customary response might lean towards his substantial wealth and entrenched influence, cultivated over a formidable 15-year span that has positioned him as one of India’s wealthiest Chief Ministers. But in a political arena where financial prowess alone doesn’t secure unwavering support, Rio’s ability to weather criticism for wealth disparity and retain his leadership begs scrutiny.

Is it merely the allure of money and power that keeps Rio in the political limelight? Contrary to conventional wisdom, this analysis contends that Rio’s resilience lies in his astute political maneuvering. He’s not the assertive leader akin to Prime Minister Modi, nor is he an obstinate figure. Instead, Rio emerges as a political craftsman, wise and adaptable, capable of predicting the future and adjusting his strategies accordingly.

The adage “in politics, there is neither permanent friend nor permanent foe” seems to be Rio’s guiding principle, drawing support from both the young and old. Beyond financial dominance, Rio’s distinguishing trait lies in his openness to change and adaptability. A political chameleon, unafraid to burn bridges if it ensures stability, he thrives on an ever-expanding spectrum of political dynamics.

Rio’s political acumen is evident in his choices – the selection of Hekani Jakhalu over old ally Azheto Zhimomi, or replacing Chotisüh Sazo with the fresh face of Kudecho Khamo, to mention some.

These decisions, seemingly drastic, demonstrate Rio’s commitment to staying ahead of the game, listening to the youth’s voice, and heeding advisors who advocate for a change in leadership.

His ability to recognize that the youth are no longer mere pawns but a potent political force underscores Rio’s strategic intelligence. Globally, where youth and women empowerment dictate political trends, Chief Minister Rio adeptly aligns himself with these currents.

With a diverse cabinet of politicians including youth and women, Rio has also seamlessly integrated social media into his political arsenal. Recognizing the symbiosis between sports and politics, he strategically invests in sports policies, shunning outdated political paradigms.

In the face of an evolving political landscape, Rio remains relevant by discarding the cloak of tribalism, make-believe or real, and forming alliances across diverse tribes. Today, he seems to have the Tenyimi bloc and the ENPO bloc quite loyal to him. His security today is a testament to his ability to shed antiquated political views and embrace the zeitgeist.

The verdict is clear: politicians indisposed to read the political winds as Rio does, clinging on to outdated approach and thinking, face a daunting journey as long as he commands the political stage. Chief Minister Rio, it seems, will only cede his throne to a political virtuoso as versatile and open to change as himself. In the complex dance of Nagaland state politics, Rio’s enduring performance suggests that adaptation, not just affluence, is the key to political longevity.

Arenjungla Kichu

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