The Naga People’s Front (NPF) swept the polls in Nagaland managing to secure the people’s mandate for a third successive term and winning 37 of the 59 seats for which elections were held last week.

As had been predicted by Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio in the course of the campaign, the NPF secured an absolute majority in the 60-member Assembly, the first time that the party managed the feat.

The results came as a big blow to the main opposition party in the State, the Congress, which secured eight seats despite a high-pitched campaign that had been kicked-off by party president Sonia Gandhi and included other star campaigners — party vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde.

Neither of the two women candidates — the BJP’s Rakhila and Independent Dr. Yangrela — managed a win. In its 50-year history, Nagaland has never elected a woman to the Assembly.

The 2008 elections had been closely contested, with the NPF winning 26 seats and the Congress managing 23, but on Thursday the regional party had seized the lead within a couple of hours of the start of counting. The NPF juggernaut picked up momentum as the day progressed and the big wins kept pouring in. Mr. Rio won from the Northern Angami II constituency in Kohima district with a margin of over 12,000 votes. Nagaland Assembly Speaker, Kiyanilie Peseyi, and the sitting Lok Sabha MP from the State C.M. Chang were among the prominent NPF leaders who were elected.

Imkong L. Imchen, who had to resign from the Council of Ministers after seven unlicensed arms and cash worth Rs. 1.1 crore was recovered from his vehicle just days before the polls, won with a margin of well over 5,000 votes at Koridang in Mokokchung over the independent candidate, T. Chaluumba Ao. The Congress candidate, Moatemjen, will have to forfeit his deposit having polled 98 votes.

The Congress managed to win two of the five seats in its stronghold of Dimapur district with the president of the party’s State unit S.I. Jamir and the Leader of the Opposition Tokheho getting re-elected. In an upset, former Chief Minister K. L. Chishi lost out to the NPF’s Tovihoto Ayemi.

The four eastern districts of the State were being watched closely by political observers, but there too the NPF appears to have silenced its critics. Of the 19 seats, the party won 13. The elections to Tuensang Sadar I were adjourned when the Congress candidate, P. Chuba Chang, died of natural causes on the eve of the polls.