GUWAHATI: The focus will be on regional entities when Nagaland and Meghalaya go to elections on Tuesday.Voting in both states will be held in 59 of the 60 constituencies.
In Nagaland, former chief minister and Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) leader Neiphiu Rio has been already declared elected unopposed from the Northern Angami-II constituency as his lone rival, Chupfuo Angami of the Naga People’s Front (NPF), pulled out fearing defeat.
In Meghalaya, the election has been countermanded in the Williamnagar seat after the Nationalist Congress Party candidate, Jonathone N Sangma, was killed recently by suspected militants in an IED blast.
The election in Nagaland is expected to be a straight contest between NPF and NDPP, which is believed to be Rio’s brainchild. Formed in February last year, the NDPP had received a shot in the arms when Rio joined the party last month. Its poll prospects got further brightened when a group of NPF MLAs, loyal to Rio, ditched the party to be with the NDPP.
The charismatic Rio is a popular leader who enjoys massive support among people belonging to six of the state’s 16 officially-recognised tribes. It was he who had helped the NPF grab power in the last three elections and was appointed the CM. However, midway through his third term, he had surprisingly vacated the CM’s chair to contest the Lok Sabha elections of 2014. He was isolated within the NPF when he had made an abortive bid to reclaim the CM’s chair two years later.
The NDPP has aligned with the BJP and both are banking on the instability of the NPF government. Nagaland got four chief ministers in the past five years.
As for the NPF, it was weakened by the defections of its MLAs. Over a dozen of them switched loyalty to the BJP besides the NDPP. The NPF also faces charges of corruption by its government.
The BJP is trying hard to shed its “Hindutva” image. The party is influential only in pockets. Despite aligning with the NDPP, the BJP says its friendship with erstwhile ally NPF is still on. By saying this, it has virtually kept the option open for a possible post-poll alliance with the NPF.
The Congress, which ruled Nagaland for the most part since statehood in 1963, is contesting from only 18 seats. The popularity of the party depleted severely in the past two decades.
Meghalaya appears headed to a multi-party contest but the ruling Congress and opposition National People’s Party (NPP) are likely to emerge as the two largest parties. Buoyed by its success in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, the BJP too is dreaming big but the alleged “Hindu party” tag may cost it dear. BJP and NPP are allies in non-Congress North East Democratic Alliance but contesting the election separately. There are also some smaller regional parties which might cut into the votes of bigger parties.
Meghalaya attained statehood in 1972 and in the past 46 years, it has been just once – in 1972, that a political party All Party Hill Leaders’ Conference – had formed the government singlehandedly. Since then, it has been all coalition governments as no party could achieve a majority. During 29 of the 46 years, Congress-led coalitions were in power.