KOHIMA: The Congress, which has given three chief ministers to Nagaland since its inception in 1963, is contesting from just 18 Assembly seats in the February 27 state polls this time, two short of the BJP, which is an emerging entity in the north-eastern state.
As many as five Congress candidates have withdrawn from the election race and now, there are only 18 nominees in the fray for the 60-member Assembly polls.
The party had released a list of 23 candidates on February 6, of whom three were "restrained" by their respective village authorities from filing nominations, while two contestants withdrew their documents citing a "fund shortage".
The BJP, a relatively new entity in the tribal-dominated state, has fielded candidates from 20 seats.
The saffron party has forged an alliance with the Nationalist Democratic People's Party (NDPP) of Neiphiu Rio, who walked out of the ruling Naga People's Front (NPF) to form the new outfit.
The NDPP is contesting from 40 seats as per its seat-sharing arrangements with the BJP.
The Congress nominees, who withdrew from the polls are -- Limawati Jamir from Aonglenden and Aimong Lam from Noklak.
Three others -- Hobeto Kiba from Zunheboto, Shami Angh from Longleng and Choakpa Konyak from Tobu -- were reportedly forced by the village authorities not to file their nominations.
Party insiders said the withdrawal was primarily due to a shortage of funds in the state Congress unit.
Nagaland Pradesh Congress Committee (NPCC) president Kewekhape Therie admitted that the cash crunch had forced the party to initially field candidates from only 23 seats.
Nagaland became a state on December 1, 1963 and after the election in January 1964, the first 40-member Nagaland Legislative Assembly was formed on February 11, 1964.
In 1974, the strength of the Assembly was increased to 60.
The downfall of the Congress had started in the north-eastern state at least five years ago.
The party, which had won eight seats in the last Assembly polls in 2013 and was the principal opposition in the state, lost all the eight MLAs when they merged with the NPF on November 21, 2015.
On the other hand, the BJP has been gaining in strength.
On June 18, 2014, three NCP MLAs had defected to the BJP, taking its tally in the state Assembly to four.
The NCP does not have any MLA in the Assembly now as the lone legislator of the party had joined the NPF in 2015.
In the 2013 Assembly polls, the Congress had contested from 56 seats and won eight.
The party had secured 24. 89 per cent of the total votes polled.
The BJP had fought from 11 seats and won one. Their vote percentage was 1.75. The NPF had contested from 60 seats and won 38, securing 47. 4 per cent of the total votes polled. Hokishe Sema was the first Congress chief minister of Nagaland (1986-1988).
S C Jamir, currently the Governor of Odisha, served as the Congress chief minister of Nagaland from 1989 to 1990 and then again from 1993 to 2003.
K L Chishi of the grand old party was on the chair for 36 days in 1990.
Buoyed by its success in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, the BJP is making a determined bid to expand its footprint in the north-east.
The saffron party is leaving no stone unturned to win the elections in Nagaland, Tripura and Meghalaya.