In another age, Sehpu Haokip would probably not have been in a Naga party. But politics is known to make strange bedfellows.
Nagaland CM Neiphiu Rio and Naga People's Front (NPF) chief Shürhozelie Liezietsu on Saturday distributed party tickets to 12 candidates in Senapati town. Haokip, a Kuki tribal, was the only non-Naga in the list.
This was unexpected because the NPF had trimmed its initial list of 14. "We decided not to contest two seats because of negative feedback," NPF (Manipur unit) secretary Kho John said.
The two seats dropped are in the proposed Sadar Hills district dominated by Kukis. The groups demanding creation of the district had last year imposed a marathon highway blockade to drive home their point. The Nagas had imposed a counter-blockade, as creating the new district would mean cutting up the 'Naga homeland'.
The NPF's entry into Manipur was seen as a design to further the Naga militants' goal of bringing all Naga-inhabited areas under one administrative umbrella.
NPF leaders said Haokip's candidature was a way of letting bygones be bygones and working for tribal unity.