Thursday, November 30, 2023

Tests ahead of NPF

After the recent change of guard in the Naga People’s Front (NPF), it would be a herculean task for the new incumbent-Apong Pongener- to revive the party which has been shattered by inner political upheavals since 2014. The old regional warhorse Dr. Shürhozelie Liezietsu who has been president from 2003 till 2023 and during which he had to overcome serious challenges from powerful opponents to save his presidency, political career as well as the party from being taken over. The teacher who eventually came out in the open, Dr.Shürhozelie, entered elective politics and won his first election in 1969 as the United Front of Nagaland (UFN) candidate for 10 Northern Angami assembly constituency. Dr.Shürhozelie later, along with close associates- Vamuzo, Rano M. Shaiza, Vizol joined hands with former NNO veterans S.C.Jamir, T.N.Angami to form the United Democratic Front(UDF). The party proved pivotal in establishing regionalism in the state when it won majority seats against the then ruling and Congress-aligned NNO in the 1974 election. Just as the he was involved when UDF was formed with those who left the ruling party in 1973, Dr. Shürhozelie was also involved in formation of the Nagaland People’s Front(NPF) with erstwhile Congress ministers such as Neiphiu Rio and K.Therie in 2002. The party name was later modified to Naga People’s Front (NPF) to signify an outreach to Naga inhabited areas in the region such as Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and possibly Assam. Crisis and conflicts within Naga People’s Front (NPF) have become a feature of the party’s legislature that began in 2014. This went on from 20145 till 2017 during which the party had four chief ministers as a consequence of these internal tussles. Also the lowest ebb for the regional party came when, from 2014 the party witnessed the spectre of legislators taking holiday refuge at Kaziranga resort at least on two occasions and also in luxury hotels in Kohima and Dimapur when the party was wracked by divisions in 2014, 2015, 2016-17. Being a Naga-centric and also having roots in Christianity, Dr. Shürhozelie compromised with these regional principles by entering into an opportunistic alliance with a national party and that too, a party that is an unabashed promoter of extreme right wing Hindu nationalism. However, in 2018 Dr. Shürhozelie refused to give the BJP more seats that which was offered and thereby ended the alliance. The fledgling NDDP grabbed the opportunity to ally with BJP, with both hands. However on August 11, 2021, driven by the politics of power, NPF legislators, much against Dr. Shürhozelie’s stand, joined the ruling NDPP-BJP alliance for the state’s second oppositionless government. Then fatal blow to NPF came when 21 out of the 25 MLAs joined the ruling NDPP. This development impaired NPF when in 2023 general election, it could contest only 22 seats and won two despite polling 31% of votes. NPF is not contesting the 43 Tapi seat bypoll which its candidate Wanglem Konyak, lost to sitting MLA Noke Wangnao by 82 votes. Of all parties, Wanglem is fighting on Congress ticket against NDPP candidate. Not contesting Tapi indicates that NPF is ceding space at a time when it ought to be fighting for every inch and vote. The new NPF president will face a litmus test in the coming days especially in the 2024 Lok Sabha election in Nagaland and Manipur.

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