Friday, April 19, 2024
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NPF: A sad chapter but…

NPF logo

Monalisa Changkija

Disappointment is writ large at the electoral performance of the NPF to the 14th Nagaland Legislative Assembly. But this disappointment is accompanied by a healthy sense of realism because the NPF has so obviously lost its way particularly since 2021. For a party that has its genesis since statehood, grounded on regionalism from day one, it is sad to see that in the recently concluded Assembly elections, it could manage to win only two seats ~ making itself irrelevant therefore weaker than national parties that have entered Nagaland just the other day, so to speak. Indubitably, the NPF will be hurdled in post-mortem of its disgraceful debacle but will it look at reality in the eye? And, will it conclude that its fate was not in the stars but in their erroneous decisions molded by the yen to have and eat the power cake?
Firstly, we don’t know the degree and quality of the NPF’s inner party democracy. This is important because that either makes or breaks ~ a party, a nation, an organization, an institution. Therefore, we also don’t know what prompted the NPF to join the NDPP-BJP’s UDA Government in 2021 and settle for an opposition-less Government. Any Opposition is in a position of power in a democracy based on check and balances. By joining the NDPP-BJP’s UDA, the NPF surrendered that position of power and violated the essence, ethos and the letter and spirit of democracy. Simultaneously, it surrendered its identity and raison d’etre for its existence. It revealed itself primarily as a power and money hungry party. It prioritized short term goals over long term gains, ignored the maxim of ‘ends and means’ thereby ceded its high moral grounds ~ all of which built up to the March 2, 2023 poll results. Vote for it or not, NPF was, after all, always Nagaland’s very own party.
Inarguably, while money and muscle power and proxy voting were rife in this election too, the NPF cannot ascribe them as the sole factors for the defeat of the 20-something candidates it put up. In a local newspaper, the NPF General Secretary, who won the 40 Bhandari A/C, stated that money defeated the NPF. Perhaps a more realistic stock-taking would serve the NPF better ~ after all, he defeated a standing Cabinet Minister, who may have had all the money and other wherewithal needed to win an election in Nagaland. It may have been the incumbency factor but perhaps, it is more the person ~ not even the party ~ who the 40 Bhandari A/C electorate preferred. The electorate’s verdict on a candidate always makes interesting analyses but the fact is that over-all the electorate resoundingly rejected the NPF in almost all the constituencies it has contested.
As it is, in the 12th NLA the NPF squandered its mandate, goodwill, time and money on inner party dissent, conflict and power struggles consequently law and policy making suffered rendering the State of Nagaland almost ungoverned. In the 13th NLA, much before the elections, right from the time the NPF decided to join hands with the NDPP-BJP Government it sent mixed messages to the people. It displayed its undecided and indecisive mind, especially on the issue of solution to the Naga political issue. NPF was actually one party that was very consistent on the issue but somewhere along the way, it seemed to have lost its vision hence its way. The general opinion is that it was needless for the NPF to join hands with the NDPP-BJP dispensation to underline its stand on the Naga political issue. And, as the Opposition, it could have made far more impact on the issue with the NSCN (IM), NNPGs and the Central Government ~ as also the people. And, it could have checked and balanced the Government in this and other issues. And, no one really bought the excuse that the NPF opted for an opposition-less Government just for facilitation and solution to the Naga issue.
The quality of NPF’s leadership also comes into the forefront when 21 of its MLAs defected to merge with the NDPP last year. Obviously, the leadership had no idea about what the party’s MLAs were up to, which indicates leadership lacunae, as also its inability to rein in party MLAs. This lacunae further indicates an absence of inner party democracy and ~ on the part of the defected MLAs ~ unprincipled conduct and the thirst and impatience for power. Perhaps, also a sense of an absence of the space and potential for upward mobility in the party? Parties that glorify personality cult, encourage ‘inner circle’, coteries and make no space for upward mobility of its rank and file often reduce themselves to the dustbins of history. We have seen that with several national and regional parties across India. So, actually all parties that are rooted on personality cult, coteries and ‘inner circles’ are vulnerable to that same dustbin, in a matter of time.
Much can be said of the NPF’s ignominious debacle in the February 27 polls but the real genesis of its decline can be traced back to the 2003 elections when it opened its doors to Congress turncoats just to wrest power from the Congress, which in turn made it vulnerable to be turn-coated. The crave for power in the political realm is not bad by itself because it is the main objective of any party ~ albeit for a purpose ~ and it propels political parties and politicians to strive for excellence but simultaneously, it also prepares the ground for seeds of disasters to germinate. It is for the leadership to discern and decide and for the rank and file to agree or disagree in unambiguous terms. As much as democracy cannot survive and thrive in an atmosphere and environment of only one voice speaking, so also no political party can survive and thrive unless all voices speak and are heard.
Having said that ~ it is too early to write off the NPF because regionalism still lives in the hearts of a lot of people in Nagaland and so the NPF will now need to decide whether it is the NPF or any other regional party will meet the regional aspirations of the people. Can it re-package itself into a brand of regionalism that would meet the aspirations of the people, especially younger people? Can it make itself relevant in these vastly and rapidly changing political, economic, social and cultural times and equations ~ state-wise, regionally, nationally and globally? Can it discern and decide what to keep of the old and what to embrace of the new? The NPF faces the enormity of the task ahead of deconstructing and reconstructing itself to become relevant once again. Does it have the vision and the gall to do that? This is where NPF’s leadership will be tested and party’s survival and relevance determined. Election to the 14th NLA was a sad chapter for the NPF but can it turn around and rewrite its saga? Kuzholuzo Nienu has rightly asserted that winning just two seats alone will not be the end of the oldest regional party ~ this is the fighting spirit that the NPF need to re-baptize itself in now.
Kuzholuzo Nienu (Azo) and Achumbemo Kikon comes across as fighters and have the capacity to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in good time. They can begin by not repeating the same mistakes their party made in the last twenty years. They can begin by re-connecting with the people across the State. For Nagaland and democracy in this State, NPF even in the Opposition Bench is crucial. It is after all, more than a mere political party ~ it is an institution; and must be nurtured as such.

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