Nationalist Democratic Peoples’ Party (NDPP) chief Neiphiu Rio registered a dramatic win
in the Northern Angami-II seat on Monday, after his brother-in-law and the lone rival from the ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF), Chupfuo Angami, withdrew from the election contest, leaving Rio as the only candidate.
Chupfuo had withdrawn much to the dismay of his party, but the NPF is now playing a different card.
NPF president Shurhozelie Liezietsu has declared that the February 27 polls is not just a contest between political parties to form a government, but a tussle between outside forces and the force of the Naga people.
In an oblique reference to Angami politicians like Rio and Chupfuo Angami, the NPF chief said, “Many tall leaders succumbing to power and money would soon land the Naga people into great trouble if they are voted to power.”
Liezietsu, a former chief minister and a seasoned politician, warned that a day would come when the whole Naga people will suffer and their identity might perish if they do not realise what force is penetrating into their land.
“It is a selection between the destruction or preservation of the Naga people and their identity,” he warned.
The win of Rio, a three-time Nagaland chief minister, also means that the NPF has lost one seat to the newly floated NDPP out of the 59 seats the party is contesting.
The NDPP will now contest 39 seats out of 40 and the BJP 20 seats, as per the parties' seat-sharing formula.
The others in the fray for the 13th Nagaland Assembly elections are NPF (58 seats), NPP (25), JD (U) (13), LJP (2), NCP (6), independents (11), AAP (3) and INC (18). The total number of candidates contesting in the final list is 195.
Allaying fears being expressed by rival political parties as well as the church about the NDPP’s pre-poll alliance with the BJP, a party perceived as a right-wing Hindu party, Rio said, “The apprehension was due to the happenings in some parts of the country.”
He, however, pointed out that no communal tension was witnessed during his term as chief minister, although, even then, his parent party, the NPF, was a part of the NDA.
The Nagaland unit of the BJP has also rejected these allegations and said that parties desperate to win elections were trying to polarise the electorate on religious lines. It pointed out that all its candidates were Christians and that their faith can never be compromised.
The ruling NPF—which is fighting the polls under a shadow of ‘corruption charges’ and ‘anti-incumbency’—has promised to build a resurgent Nagaland if voted to power for the fourth consecutive time.