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Tue, 13 Nov 2018

Northeast Today

The Odds For BJP In Mizoram Election

The Odds For BJP In Mizoram Election
November 04
10:38 2018

NET Bureau

For a long time in the Northeast, the battle was between the Congress and regional parties. However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) interrupted the status quo. While it is ruling Assam, Tripura, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, it supports coalition governments in Meghalaya and Nagaland. Hence, winning Mizoram polls would help the party achieve its mission of a Congress-mukt (free) Northeast India.

But it wouldn’t be easy for BJP to come to power in Mizoram. Around 87 per cent of the population is Christian, according to the 2011 census, and reports indicate that Mizos still view the BJP with scepticism.

The party has been trying to combine its Hindutva image with a pro-minority face. However, this became challenging after the beef ban. While BJP candidates are making efforts to dispel myths about the party being Satanic for the Christians, Congress is taking advantage of the situation.

Prior to polls in Meghalaya, Congress had even launched a campaign saying if BJP comes to power, it will impose Hindutva on Christians.

Despite contesting elections in Mizoram five times, things aren’t going the saffron way in the northeastern state.

Experts are of the opinion that toppling the present Lal Thanhawla-led Congress government would be a Herculean task for any party.

But the fight for Mizoram will not be easy for Congress either. There is anti-incumbency brewing. The Congress-led government has had to face flak on two accounts – state of the infrastructure, and lifting of the ban on alcohol. Mizoram’s roads are in a terrible condition, and they have not seen any improvement over the two terms that the Congress has enjoyed there.

There are also reports of increased alcohol-related deaths in the state. The Congress lifted the prohibition which existed before. Using these as the platform and challenging the Congress is not so much the BJP, but the MNF (Mizo National Front). The northeastern state has been swinging between Congress and the Mizo National Front (MNF) since 1984 (although with a short President’s rule in 1988).

Two Congress leaders recently quit the party to join the MNF. Dr BD Chakma, former minister and a Chakma tribe leader, has recently quit the Congress to join the BJP.

Regional parties pose more threat to Congress than BJP. Parties like MNF, National People’s Party (NPP), Zoram National Party (ZNP) and Mizo People’s Convention (MPC) are in the fray.

The major opposition party, MNF had formed the government for two terms and its leader Zoramthanga has been twice the Chief Minister of the state. The party is banking on anti-incumbency and their new recruits R Lalzirliana and Lalrinliana Sailo to spice up their campaigns.

In the 2008 assembly poll, the Congress won 32 out of the 40 seats with 39 per cent vote share, while the MNF had three seats with 31 per cent vote share. In 2013, the Congress increased both its seat count and the vote share (34 and 45 per cent) while the MNF saw its vote share decrease to 29 per cent but walked away with five seats. In the last Lok Sabha election, Mizoram sent a Congress representative to the parliament – the state’s lone MP.

The BJP is trying to create a dent in this otherwise two-head race. Party President Amit Shah spoke to about 7,000 BJP workers in Aizawl and accused the Chief Minister Lal Thanhwala of running “a corrupt and dynastic rule” in the state. He claimed the CM was trying to install his younger brother, currently the health minister, as the next chief minister.

Although a small state with only 7.68 lakh people on the rolls, Mizoram will be an important battlefield for the Congress and the BJP. While the former will test its ability to hold the only post they currently have in the northeast, for the latter it will be the last frontier to be won in northeast India.

Mizoram goes to the hustings on November 28, and results will be announced on December 11.

SOURCE: Money Control

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