The Congress has cited a “huge cash crunch” as its reason for not fielding more candidates in the upcoming Nagaland Assembly elections, the Hindustan Times reported on Friday. The party had initially announced 23 candidates for the 60-seat Assembly, but after the deadline to withdraw nominations passed on February 12, it is now left with only 18.

Nagaland’s Assembly polls will be held on February 27.

Five of the candidates announced by the party on February 6 – Limawati Jamir, Hobeto Kiba, Shami Angh, Choakpa Konyak and Aimong Lam – withdrew their nominations.

“The All India Congress Committee cannot fund us,” the state Congress President Kewe Khape Therie told the Hindustan Times. “This was conveyed to us by the general secretary [CP Joshi]. I think a party, which is in opposition for 15 years, cannot fight against a corrupt government without enough resources.”

He confirmed the cash crunch had forced the party to name just 23 candidates initially.

An unidentified party leader said: “There is a realisation in the Congress that nothing much could be done and hence no point pumping resources. The general secretary in-charge of northeast, CP Joshi, seems to be least interested in the party’s affairs in the region.”

As many as 253 candidates filed their papers across parties on February 7, the last day to file nominations for the elections. However, many withdrew their papers, leaving 195 in the fray, the state’s Chief Electoral Officer Abhijit Sinha said on February 13.

The ruling Naga People’s Front will now have candidates from 58 seats, the Congress from 18, and the Bharatiya Janata Party from 20.

Most candidates had not filed their nominations until a day before the deadline. All local political parties in the state said they will boycott the polls as a show of support to tribal bodies and groups, who have been demanding that elections be held only after the Naga peace talks with the government end.