Nagaland Assembly Elections 2013: Neiphiu Rio’s magic works again

By Biplob Ghosal | Updated: Mar 01, 2013, 12:04 PM IST

Biplob Ghosal

It seems Neiphiu Rio exactly knows the pulse of people of the northeastern state of Nagaland. This was evident when the ruling Naga Peoples Front (NPF) returned to power with an absolute majority in Nagaland winning 38 seats in the 60-member Assembly.

In 2008, the NPF and Congress secured 26 and 23 seats respectively. But this time around, the picture is totally different. While, the ruling party has increased its tally by 12 seats, the main opposition party, Congress, has managed to bag just eight seats.

NPF allies - JD(U) and BJP - won a seat each. The NCP contested in 15 but won in four seats, while RJD failed to open its account though it contested on two constituencies. Independents won eight seats.

Neiphiu Rio-led NPF, which has been ruling in Nagaland for the past one decade, favours the ongoing Naga peace process and terms it as the best option available to end the protracted political conflict in the state.

During the election campaign, the CM had said, "The NPF, from the beginning, has promised to find a durable and honourable settlement to the Naga issue. We will achieve this through non-violence."

Unlike in the past, when the shadow of insurgency loomed large in Nagaland, the electorate this time was happy that insurgency was not the dominant issue and militant groups were not intimidating them.

At a time when the electorate was somehow joyful with reducing insurgency, issues like development, rising process and infrastructure were also talked about.

While keeping the Naga issue alive, the Rio government had tried to focus on governance in conflicted areas and adopted the involvement and empowerment of village communities through village development board, which seems to have worked well for it this time.

Though the NPF chief has worked to bring development, reports suggest that armed outfits in the state continue to run the extortion business. Traders, businessmen and contractors are the worst affected in the hilly state.

During the election campaign, Rio had announced setting a target of 10 percent growth rate for Nagaland during the 12th Five Year Plan. Well this needs to be done now. Naga issue is six decades old and continues to play a spoiler in the path of development. A ceasefire has been in place in the area since 1997, but no permanent agreement has been signed between the government of India and insurgent groups. Now that the majority has shown faith in Rio and voted for him for the third consecutive time, the NPF leader needs to deliver more and should not use the insurgency as an excuse for non-development and providing basic amenities such as education, water and health facilities to the people.