For decades, sovereignty-seeking Nagas waged a war with one objective - unification of Naga tribes scattered across the northeast and Myanmar. But the very unity of the Nagas in Nagaland appears to be under strain ahead of the February 23 assembly elections in the state.
The Congress, seeking a return in Nagaland after 10 years, has underscored the 'disintegration of Naga society' in a decade under the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) government led by the Naga People's Front (NPF).
The BJP had in 2003 propped up the NPF in order to gain a foothold in Nagaland. DAN returned to power in 2008 not only to weaken the Congress but also to devour the BJP, which subsequently merged with the NPF.
Facing a prolonged leadership crisis after the 'retirement' of former chief minister SC Jamir, the Congress has taken the Naga unity route to justify the need for a change in Nagaland.
"The Naga society has been a classless one for ages. But they have in the last 10 years been divided, betrayed by DAN," said former chief minister KL Chishi of the Congress.
The division of Nagas on tribal lines, he added, was apparent from the creation of organisations such as Tenyimia, Eastern Naga People's Organisation (ENPO) and Central Nagaland Tribal Council (CNTC).
Though 50 Naga tribes inhabit the northeast and Myanmar, only 15 of them are recognised in Nagaland.
Six, including Angami-NPF heavyweight and chief minister Neiphiu Rio, belong to this tribe inhabiting western Nagaland form Tenyimia. Six more comprise ENPO while three major tribes -Ao, Lotha and Sumi - form the CNTC, a fairly new organisation.
The NPF refuted the Congress allegation, labelling it a hate campaign.
"The Congress has become desperate. Their aim is to weaken DAN by weakening the chief minister," NPF president Shurhozelie Liezietsu said.
"Tenyimia is a natural institution and ENPO an association. The government cannot be blamed for people coming together to protect their rights. We should rather support them if we feel their approach is right," he said.
ENPO has been demanding statehood for four 'backward' districts of eastern Nagaland. These districts have 20 of the 60 assembly seats in Nagaland.