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Tue, 20 Aug 2019

Northeast Today

Much at Stake for BJP in Mizoram

Much at Stake for BJP in Mizoram
December 19
16:33 2018

November Issue, Statewide Mizoram

Rajarshee Chakraborty writes about the BJP’s stake in the ensuing Mizoram elections

First Words

“Change” in itself has a powerful existence. The only constant is a ray of hope, and when change is communicated well, it has the ability to overturn dynasties and governments. 2014 witnessed one such change when the Bharatiya Janata Party, riding high on the Narendra Modi bandwagon toppled the decade-old UPA government at the center.

Cut to 2016. Northeast, which seemed an impossible game for the BJP was also wooed by the charisma of the lotus, and backed by leaders like SarbanandaSonowal, HimantaBiswaSarma and likes, the Bharatiya Janata Party made inroads to the north-eastern region via Assam.

Post-2016, the party’s journey in the Northeast has been outstanding. They achieved the seemingly impossible when states like Meghalaya and Tripura embraced the change which BJP promised. The party has played the right cards in every situation and over time strengthened its position in the region to an extent that it has now set its eye for a “Congress Mukt Northeast”. As the lone Congress-ruled north-eastern state of Mizoram goes to the polls this November, the BharatiyaJanta Party is hopeful of a brilliant performance and thereby eliminates Congress from the North-eastern region.

The Sentiments Card

But is it all placid for the BJP in the northeast? Has the party been able to retain its charisma with which it made its entry in the states?

The prevailing sentiments in Assam and Tripura at least suggest otherwise. The controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 on which the party leaders have maintained a discordant stand is something which the opposition is trying to bank on. The party’s Assam ally AsomGanaParishad has at times come down heavily on the party and has threatened of dire consequences in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls if the BJP fails on its promises to prioritize indigenous rights. In Assam, the party lies in a fix.

The other state where the party is battling clamor is Tripura. Although BJP came to power in the state with its #ChaloPaltai drive and overthrew the left rule of decades, things have not gone very well after Biplab Kumar Dev took charge as the state’s Chief Minister. The spat with ally IPFT is something that the party just cannot overlook. Also, the controversial statements of Chief Minister Deb which made national headlines also caused a lot of embarrassment to the BJP.

So is it testing times for BJP? Yes, it is. The turbulence that has risen is not one to ignore, and it remains to be seen if BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav’s statement on a Congress-mukt Northeast holds ground after Mizoram goes to polls in end November.

The stakes for BJP in the ensuing are huge elections are huge. Mizoram is the north-eastern state with the highest concentration of tribal and has been a Congress forte since Lal Thanhawla was sworn in as the Chief Minister in 2008.

So before going into predictions and what will be the after effects of Mizoram elections on the BJP’s Congress Mukt Northeast vision, let’s take a look at the voting trends of Mizoram in the past two assembly elections and how the parties are gearing up for the big battle this winter.

The Other Side

It should also be mentioned that the Congress won the single Lok Sabha seat in the state in which the Congress’ vote share was almost equal to the votes polled by all the other contenders.

On October 11, Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla declared the names of 36 candidates of his party.79-year-old Thanhawla will be contesting from his home turf Sercchip and also from Champhai (South).

The BJP, however, has decided not to go all out at the polls. The saffron party will field its candidates in the two Chakma- Majority constituencies of West Tuipai and Tuichawng. Speculations ride high in the air with possible alliances that the party might form with   “like-minded” parties, but chances of pre-poll alliances seem weak. So for the BJP, it is all about forging the right alliances and also at the right time.

Just like Assam, illegal immigration from neighbouring countries will be a key issue in the 2018 Mizoram elections, infrastructure, unemployment, and poverty being others.

Something which is very evident from the BJP’s way of handling Mizoram elections is that the party is reluctant in revealing its strategy, and hence, has not come out clearly with the declaration of probable alliances. The regional parties of Mizoram too have maintained a similar stand and some have totally rubbished speculations of a BJP alliance.

However, the Maraland Democratic Front (MDF), earlier an ally of the Opposition Mizo National Front (MNF), merged with the BJP on 25 October along with its two members of district council (MDCs) in the Mara Autonomous District Council.

Final Words

All said and done, the fight for Mizoram will be of great importance both for the ruling Congress and the BJP as it is expected to have serious after-effects in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

For Congress, Mizoram is its only citadel in Northeast, and a win can bring in a fresh wave among the party workers in the region. The Congress will definitely bank on the popularity which the BJP lost in some of the north-eastern states and try to revive itself in the region.

A loss for BJP will only consolidate predictions that the BJP will find it difficult to retain north-eastern states after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. There are predictions of a major debacle for the party in states like Assam and Tripura, and a loss in Mizoram will just strengthen the sentiments.

The BJP’s pre-poll promises in north-eastern states have always been of protecting the indigenous rights. Northeast which has been battling illegal influx from neighbouring countries since decades has looked up to the promises made by BJP and voted them to power. However, the party is alleged to have gone back on its promises and prioritise such issues on the basis of religion, something which has not worked well in the northeast.

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