The political landscape in Nagaland today seems to reflect a semblance of stability, tenuous though it may be, after what was three decades of turbulence marked by wild swings in governments. The coming elections will go to show whether the trend continues or the State that presently enjoys a hard-earned respite from separatist militancy slips back to the days when a switch of loyalties of a few independents in the 60-member Assembly could tilt the balance. The last 20 years have been divided equally between the Congress for the first ten and the Naga People’s Front (NPF)-led coalition under the stewardship of Neiphiu Rio for most of the remaining period.
In a state where election guidelines are issued by the Church, the rechristening of political outfits is not uncommon, adding to the fluidity in political party formation. The ruling Naga People’s Front itself underwent a change in name from the earlier Nagaland People’s Front in a bid to expand its appeal in Naga inhabited area in other states – a tactic that enabled it to win four seats in the Assembly elections held in Manipur last year.
The question now is whether Mr. Rio will be handed the people’s mandate for a third successive term, which would not only be a record by itself but could also have a bearing on the question of the integration of areas that have a significant Naga population in neighbouring states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.