With the announcement of the respective candidate from the PDA and the NPF for the by-elections to the lone Lok Sabha seat from Nagaland, the battle lines have been drawn. While the ruling PDA has chosen Tokheho Yepthomi as the consensus candidate, the NPF has chosen C Apok Jamir as its candidate.
What is interesting is that both the candidates have lost from their respective constituencies just two months back during the state assembly polls. The two contenders are also long time former INC party legislators and the NPF candidate was also a former Rajya Sabha member. They were also part of the eight member INC legislators who had merged with the NPF in 2015 marking what would be termed as the start of the end of the INC in Nagaland. While Jamir stayed with the NPF during the 2018 polls, Yepthomi again made another shift and contested with an NDPP ticket. However for both, their shifting allegiances were only catastrophic as both lost during the assembly polls.
For the present Lok Sabha, it will be a similar case like before in Nagaland. The ruling party or alliance always has the edge over the opposition during Lok Sabha polls. This is because the whole of Nagaland is a single parliamentary constituency and the dynamics that is played out is a little different from other states. The ruling PDA which is an alliance of NDPP, BJP, NPP, JD-U and one independent was able to garner nearly 52.67% of the total votes during the last assembly elections. The NPF got a vote-share of around 38.78%. The ruling alliance also has an advantage of one constituency with about twenty thousand voters where an NDPP candidate was declared uncontested in the assembly elections.
The MLAs of the ruling alliance are also able to consolidate most of the votes during parliamentary elections although the votes have been divided during the assembly elections. However this time the fight will obviously be tougher as the opposition NPF has 26 MLAs while the PDA has 34 MLAs. The anti-Christian tag of the BJP used by the INC since the last Lok Sabha elections in Nagaland may not hold much water this time. Back then, the NPF was in alliance with the BJP. As is the case in politics, both the present candidates were part and parcel of that anti-BJP campaign against the NPF candidate who was no other than the present chief minister. This time the NPF is still not sure if it will go the INC way while the PDA is an alliance where BJP is a part of.
Regardless the present selection of candidates indicates something that is back to normal, as is the case in Nagaland. Nagaland continues to field candidates who are unsuccessful in the state assembly election for the parliamentary elections. It has almost become a rule and there are only a few exceptions to it. The parliamentary seats also become retirement homes for long time party workers. To field a capable sitting MLA or an upcoming young face is still too farfetched for Nagaland politicians and also the electorates. The checks and balances; and the adjustments within the alliance, party, district and tribe somehow take precedence over dynamic and capable candidates.