The Eastern Nagaland People’s Organization (ENPO) has announced a boycott of the upcoming Lok Sabha election in the state, citing the failure of the Central government to address their demand for Frontier Naga Territory. This development is poised to impact the electoral dynamics in Nagaland significantly.

Nagaland is set for a triangular contest in the Lok Sabha elections, with Dr Chumben Murry of the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), S Supongmeren Jamir of the Indian National Congress (INC), and Independent candidate Hayithung Tungoe Lotha vying for the lone seat.

Backdrop of 2019 Elections
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the electoral battle in Nagaland witnessed a close contest between Congress candidate KL Chishi and NDPP’s Tokheho Yepthomi, with Chishi initially leading before the focus shifted to Mon, ultimately resulting in Yepthomi’s victory by a significant margin.

Chishi lost by a 16,344 vote-margin registering a total of 4,84,166 votes against Yepthomi’s 5,00,510 votes. In fact, after the election, congress candidate and former CM of Nagaland, KL Chishi can be recalled saying, “I lost the battle of Mon.”

Mon district electorate is the largest among the six districts of Eastern Nagaland. Mon district has over 1.54 lakh registered voters eligible to exercise their franchise in the Nagaland Lok Sabha polls this year.

Shifting alliances

The Naga People’s Front (NPF), once Nagaland’s predominant party, had supported the Congress candidate in 2019. In 2019, NPF supported the Congress to ensure that anti-PDA votes don’t get split. However, in a strategic shift, the NPF is now extending its support to the NDPP candidate, aligning itself with the oppositionless People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) government.

Ironically, the Rising Peoples’ Party of Nagaland has joined hands with the Congress citing the same reason as NPF said in 2019 – to ensure anti-PDA votes don’t split.

Decline of Congress and rise of NDPP
The Congress party, which had a stronghold in Nagaland from 1982 to 2002, has witnessed a steady decline over the past two decades in the wake of the NPF’s emergence. The NPF held power for three consecutive terms between 2003 and 2018, signaling a changing tide in Nagaland’s political dynamics.

Neiphiu Rio, a prominent figure in Nagaland politics, played a pivotal role in this transition. Serving as Chief Minister from 2003 to early 2014, Rio aimed to pursue a larger role in national politics. However, his aspirations were thwarted when he was denied a position in the Narendra Modi-led government. Returning to state politics, Rio faced challenges within his party NPF, leading to his suspension for “anti-party” activities.

In the lead-up to the 2018 Nagaland assembly elections, Rio made a strategic move by defecting to the newly-formed NDPP, believed to be his brainchild.  This defection ultimately led to the formation of the People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) government in the state which was made up of BJP, Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) and Janata Dal (United).

Rio was also a former Congress minister. The Congress’s boat started sinking after 2003 once Rio walked out of the then SC Jamir government to be with the NPF.

With around 4 lakh registered voters potentially affected by ENPO’s boycott, the upcoming Lok Sabha election is poised to be highly unpredictable.

Mokokchung Times

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