BJP-NDPP names Neiphiu Rio as CM candidate for Nagaland

KOHIMA: Hours after Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) leader Neiphiu Rio’s unopposed victory from the Northern Angami-II constituency was announced by the Election Commission, the party’s ally, the BJP, said the three-time chief minister will be the chief ministerial candidate for the two-party alliance.

The two parties had stitched an alliance on January 3 but had not named any CM candidate then. The newly-floated NDPP, which is contesting 40 of the 60 seats in the Nagaland assembly, will be the senior partner of the BJP, which has a share of the remaining 20 seats to contest from.

BJP state president Visasolie Lhoungu told TOI on Tuesday, “It has been decided that Rio will be the chief ministerial candidate. The formal announcement will come from New Delhi.”

The man himself, the 67-year-old Rio, chose to remain humble. When contacted for his comments on the BJP state president’s announcement, Rio said, “Ok good. Let the big boss come (PM Narendra Modi) and say it.”

On the last day of withdrawal of nomination papers on Monday, Rio’s rival and his brother-in-law, Chupfuo Angami of the Naga People’s Front, withdrew his nomination, leaving Rio unopposed. An Independent candidate, Neiphrezo Keditsu, had withdrawn his nomination earlier.

When asked if his early victory came as a surprise or if it was expected, Rio said, “In politics you cannot say anything, but I was working towards it so it was not a surprise for me.”

 Rio was the chief minister from 2003 to 2014, making him the only Nagaland chief minister to have served three consecutive terms. He is currently the lone MP from the state, a seat which he won in 2014 after stepping down from the CM’s post as the NPF candidate. He switched over to the NDPP last month.

BJP sees Rio’s early win as the game changer that could help the alliance. “Rio winning the first seat even before the election has given the alliance a big boost. He has kicked off the alliance’s victory march,” Lhoungo said. Wherever the NDPP is not contesting, its workers will help BJP candidates and vice-versa, he added.

Rio said, “Our alliance is right on track. We are getting full cooperation from the BJP, particularly the state unit.”

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