The regional mix: on the Nagaland-Meghalaya polls

Nagaland and Meghalaya go to the polls on Tuesday, nine days after voters in Tripura voted, at a time when there is a change in the nature of political contestation in all three States. If the Tripura campaign was marked by the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party as a force in the reckoning, regional parties, including newly formed ones, are expected to have a greater say in the elections to the other two States. In Nagaland, former Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, elected unopposed from a constituency in Kohima district, has added a new wrinkle to the contest by resigning from the ruling Naga People’s Front and joining a new party which he had helped found, the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party. The NDPP has stitched an electoral alliance with the BJP, ceding 20 of the 60 seats, and is now seen as the main competitor to the ruling NPF, even as the Congress has been reduced to a shell of its old organisational self. The NPF had in any case lured legislators from the Congress and others into its fold during its previous term in power, leaving the legislative assembly with no opposition. This was before differences within the Front cropped up, resulting in the resignation of Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang in February 2017 and the appointment of Shurhozelie Liezietsu, and the return of Mr. Zeliang to the post again in July 2017 after yet another upheaval. These internal differences, besides Mr. Rio’s exit, have weakened the NPF in the bipolar contest between the NPF and the NDPP-BJP. Interestingly, the BJP has said that its relations with the NPF are intact, indicating it is hedging its bets till the results are out. The contest is less of a battle of agendas than a clash of personalities — which does not augur well.

In Meghalaya, the polling takes place against the backdrop of extremist violence: Nationalist Congress Party candidate Jonathone Sangma was assassinated on February 18. There appears to be a keen contest between the ruling Congress party and the National People’s Party, founded by former Lok Sabha Speaker P.A. Sangma and now led by his son Conrad. A coalition of ethnic parties concentrated in the Khasi-Jaintia Hills is expected to play spoiler. The BJP is a bit player in Meghalaya, but it has forged an alliance with the NPP in Manipur and may play a larger part if the party and other regional forces manage to oust the long-standing Congress regime. With unemployment and a sluggish economy being major issues, the Congress has sought to run on its record of bringing back peace to the State. As things stand in both Meghalaya and Nagaland, it will be no surprise if post-election realignments among political parties, rather than the existing equations, decide the nature of the governments that will be formed.

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 9:23:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/the-regional-mix-on-the-nagaland-meghalaya-polls/article22852644.ece

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