In a stunning political upset for Rio-led Peoples’ Democratic Alliance (PDA), Supongmeren Jamir secured an improbable victory for the Indian National Congress in Nagaland, a state politically dominated by the NDPP- BJP alliance. Jamir won the lone Lok Sabha seat in Nagaland, defeating Dr Chumben Murry of the ruling Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) by a margin of 50,984 votes.

This unexpected triumph has been described as an election that “betrayed” the Nagaland government, as voters chose Jamir over the PDA consensus candidate, supported by all 60 state MLAs. The Rising Peoples’ Party (RPP) of Nagaland, an ally of Congress in the recent Lok Sabha election, hailed this victory as a vote against 21 years of misrule by Neiphiu Rio, while the JD(U) Nagaland, which supports the PDA, attributed the NDPP candidate’s defeat to the “callousness” of major PDA parties. The JD(U) Nagaland also called for the resignation of ministers and advisors whose constituencies did not support Murry, citing a moral obligation due to their reduced support.

This victory marks a significant revival for the Congress in Nagaland, a state where its influence had waned since the end of SC Jamir’s era in 2003.

Neiphiu Rio’s rise to Chief Minister, leading an NPF government, and later the NDPP-BJP alliance, had left the Congress struggling, with no MLAs in the 60-member Nagaland Assembly since 2018. The party’s decline was exacerbated after its MLAs joined the NPF post-2014 elections, failing to secure any seats in subsequent state polls and facing difficulties in fielding candidates.

Jamir’s return to Congress leadership in March 2023, after a stint with the National People’s Party, has now sparked hopes for a new beginning. Following his win, Jamir emphasized the need for a stronger opposition to counteract what he termed discriminatory and divisive politics, underscoring the significance of his victory as a mandate for change.

In a Hindu report, the NDPP conceded that the outcome was unexpected. Former Minister Vatsu Meru suggested overconfidence, the impact of Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, and the abstention by the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organization (ENPO) as factors that played against the PDA consensus candidate.

As per the Hindu report, Jamir secured 401,951 votes, almost matching the number of abstentions in ENPO-dominated districts.

The abstention of ENPO indicates discontent with both the BJP-led central government and Rio’s state administration over the demand for an autonomous Frontier Nagaland Territory.

Despite his victory, Jamir acknowledged the challenges ahead, focusing on rebuilding the Congress from the ground up in Nagaland. “The people have voted for change, and it is our responsibility now to strengthen the party’s base in the state,” he stated, highlighting the road ahead in reviving Congress’s presence in the state.

Mokokchung Times

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