After scrutiny on February 7, nominations of 30 candidates have been rejected thereby leaving 227 in the fray but how many will eventually contest the February 27 election will be known after February 12 the last day for withdrawal of nominations.
The February 27, 2018 polls comes against the backdrop of confusion among the public since various apex tribe organizations, NGOs, civil society groups including NSCN (I-M) and Working Committee of NNPGs had strongly rooted for deferment of polls till final solution was achieved to the long pending Naga political problem.
After Monday (February 12) those remaining will vie for the 60-member 13th Nagaland Legislative Assembly. After Monday, the remaining candidates will have less than two weeks to campaign since all activities will cease 48 hours before polling.
There are 10 political parties including Independents vying for power while a majority of those setting up less than 20 candidates hope to become ‘king makers’ in the event of a hung house or fractured mandate. The ruling NPF will contest the highest number of seats–59. Though NPF has decided to fight alone, there is possibility of forming a post-poll alliance with any likeminded party or parties. The newly formed Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) will contest the second highest number of seats in 40 constituencies. The highest number of candidates where NDPP had set up is in Mokokchung district.
Since the NPF offered less than 10 seats the BJP decided to accept the 20 seats offered by the NDPP for a pre-poll alliance.
As per the form and shape of electoral realignments for the ensuing assembly election, the ruling NPF and the newly formed NDPP and its alliance partner BJP are going to be the two main contenders for power. Leading the NPF charge is chief minister, T.R. Zeliang who has proved to be a survivor of many crises but in the present scenario three time chief minister and Lok Sabha MP, Neiphiu Rio is all set to give the NPF (which he founded in 2002) a run for its money.
The ‘collective’ NPF leadership of T.R. Zeliang and party president Dr. Shürhozelie does not appear to be all hunky dory despite the façade of reconciliation in December last year after the relationship between both hit rock bottom.
Any party which wind around 15 or more seats can make a serious bid to power. As of today both the NPF and NDPP appear to be headed for a showdown on February 27 and a hung house will only lead to further barter and exchange in which smaller parties hope to do business. Interestingly in the coming election there seem to be hardly any presence of independents.