Mizoram Vidhan Sabha election: BJP and MNF keep distance ahead of polls, but bank on each other to oust Congress

Pranjal Sarma | Nov 26, 2018 | 6 min read


In Mizoram BJP and MNF bank on each other to oust Congress

Aizawl: While the ruling Congress in Mizoram is gearing up to fight the Mizo National Front (MNF) and its NEDA partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), it is the BJP and the MNF who are indulged in a proxy war of their own to gain an upper hand in the state with just a day to go before Mizoram votes.

BJP’s election in-charge for the state, Himanta Biswa Sarma, has unnerved leaders in the two stronger parties in the state by suggesting that the BJP might come into an understanding of sorts with dissenting MLAs of the Congress and the MNF if required once elections are over. The MNF, however, is distancing itself from the BJP in view of the impending elections.

“It is the BJP leadership’s wishful thinking regarding the kind of alliance they think they can forge once the elections are over. I think we won’t need any other political party to form the government in the post poll scenario. We believe that the MNF will win 25-30 seats in Mizoram with a comfortable majority. As far as Himanta Biswa Sarma’s statement is concerned, he can say anything as that is his privilege,” reacted former Mizoram chief minister and MNF chief Pu Zoramthanga, who believes that the BJP will only win two-three seats in the 40 member Mizoram Assembly.

The BJP on the other hand is confident that Mizoram will have a BJP-led government if things work out according to their estimates. State BJP president John V Hluna, who is in contest from Tawi constituency against former home minister and former Congress vice-president in state, R Lalzirliana, who is now with the MNF, says that talks of post-poll alliance amid the three prominent parties is a far cry as of now. However, no one can determine what can happen after elections. He adds – “There have been instances when leaders of the Congress have joined other parties and everything is possible once the votes have been cast.”

The BJP which has so far failed to open its account in Mizoram is banking heavily on the anti-incumbency factor that the Congress faces this time around. Election in-charge Sarma is credited with making inroads for the BJP in the Northeast.

A worried Congress has accused the BJP of using money to make rapid inroads and rise to power through the back door. Congress spokesperson Maliana, while quashing Sarma’s suggestion of uniting with dissenters from other parties, said – “The reason why the BJP is coming up with such statements [about post-poll understanding with dissenters] is because the people of the state detest and dislike the BJP. The BJP knows that it can never form the government on its own and that is why it is banking on the support of the MNF.”

Sarma, on the other hand while countering the Congress’s allegations, said last weekend: “We will have it through the front door. We will surprise everyone by winning Mizo seats too. We have friends in the Congress and the MNF. If there is any shortfall [post-election], we have enough friends in both the parties.”

Political analysts believe that the BJP and the MNF have a secret understanding and are maintaining a distance considering the ramifications they might face if they hob-knob with each other prior to the elections.

“The understanding between the MNF and the BJP is an open secret. They know that in a state like Mizoram where Christians dominate every aspect of life, the BJP hobnobbing with the MNF will only dampen the MNF’s prospects. The BJP is seen and perceived as a party with strong right-wing mentality and Christians in Mizoram have always opposed that. In a predominantly tribal state, their [BJP’s] main motto is to form the government and ideological differences are irrelevant in the pursuit of power. Just as in Meghalaya, the NPP and the BJP, despite their differences prior to elections, came together later to form the government. The same might very well happen in Mizoram in case there is a hung assembly,” says Abhijeet Deb, a veteran journalist covering the Northeast.  

The BJP is concentrating primarily on the Bru and Chakma dominated areas who often find themselves isolated and marginalized by the mainstream Mizo community.

“The BJP might be trying to make inroads into Chakma and Reang (Bru) dominated areas, but they will face an uphill task as the voters are divided between the BJP, its alliance partners and the Congress. Even Dr B D Chakma’s position [former minister and a Chakma tribe leader, has recently quit the Congress to join the BJP] is under threat because what we apprehend from outside might not be true on the ground,” – says Maliana.

BJP state president J V Hluna believes the past track record of the MNF under former CM Pu Zoramthanga will dissuade many from voting for the party. Allegations of large scale corruption and mismanagement of government funds will be a critical deciding factor for the electorate as they choose the next government for Meghalaya.

“The MNF might not realize but the BJP has made massive inroads in Mizoram and whether they like it or not they cannot form the government without the help of the BJP. They might think that some senior Congress leaders joining the party will boost their prospects this time around, but the reality is that the MNF leadership is much more corrupt than the current Congress government under Lal Thanhawla,” says Hluna, confident that the BJP will not only win 10 to 12 seats in the state, but will also lead the government.

One thing is for sure, the BJP-MNF combine is determined to wipe the Congress out from Mizoram. MNF chief Zoramthanga blames the Congress of antagonizing the church by selling liquor in the state which, he says, has resulted in the death of thousands over last three years. According to him, the Congress will only win around 10 seats in the state.

BJP workers claim a positive trend favoring their party in border districts like Mamit, Kolasib, Lunglei and Lawngtlai.

The opinions of the Mizo people about the BJP are divided between those wanting to give the party a chance as they are fed up of the failure of the MNF and the Congress in developing the state and those who believe that the national right-wing alternative is not suitable for an ethnic state like theirs.

Mizoram badly needs development and that seems to be the primary concern for most of its voters, who are facing a catch 22 situation---They either have to choose Mizo pride and ethnicity, or go for the development pitch of the BJP which has been effectively pushed by big shots of the party, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, adds Deb.

No matter what, the BJP’s ploy to include the MNF, MZP and other ethnic groups together under one big umbrella might finally pay some dividends just like in Meghalaya where the BJP despite only winning 2 seats managed to form the government by brokering a deal with the National People’s Party (NPP) and other like-minded groups.

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