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Mizoram elections: Congress guns for third shot at power, opposition hopes anti-incumbency will see them through

On Saturday, the Election Commission of India announced that Mizoram will go to polls on November 28. Mizoram is the only state in the Northeast with a Congress government, with incumbent Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, leading the 40-membered Assembly. While the Thanhawla government, which has been in power (elected in 2008 and 2013) for two terms now, feels confident about a third term, the opposition Mizo National Front (MNF) feels anti-incumbency will bring the Congress down. “There is quite a lot of anti-incumbency feeling among the public. The primary reason is a lack of development in almost every field: roads are in a pathetic condition, and there has been no progress in the field of agriculture or horticulture. Everything is suffering,” says Zoramthanga, former chief minister and president of MNF.

While the main fight is pegged to between the Congress and MNF, the BJP, a new entrant in the scene, has joined the fray, hoping to win what will be their last state in the Northeast. While party general secretary Ram Madhav visited earlier this month, President Amit Shah is supposed to reach on October 17 “to officially kick off the party campaign.”

 

While the BJP has to work hard to change its “anti-Christian” perception in the Christian-dominated Mizoram, they feel that “it is no longer a big issue.” “When Ram Madhav had come to Mizoram, we travelled to districts such as Champhai. We explained that we are not an anti-Christian party and that we have Christian ministers in Nagaland, in Meghalaya. In the coming election, we won’t put a candidate from UP or Bihar. We will put a Mizo Christian,” says V Hluna, president BJP’s Mizoram unit, “Ram Madhav cited me as an example. He said that before I joined BJP, I was a Christian and a leader of my church. And even after joining BJP, I am still a Christian and leader of my Church.”

However, according to a spokesperson of the student body, Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) — which is not affiliated to any political party— the public still views BJP as “pro-Hindu”. “The RSS is very extreme and pro-Hindu. The main fight is between Congress and MNF. At this point, we believe, the common support is tilted towards the MNF,” he says, adding that under the Congress government “roads are in a pathetic condition and all bridges are broken.”

The Congress, however, feels anti-incumbency is “quite negligible.” “It is not non-existent but it is not a big issue,” says Rinmawia Ralte, Congress MLA and political secretary to Lal Thanhawla, “Our manifesto is yet to be approved by the party executive committee so we cannot say much.” He mentioned that the party will continue to focus on its flagship programme, the New Land Use Policy (NLUP) to help the farmers. Congress President Rahul Gandhi is expected to visit the state soon.

Last month, in what was perceived as a setback to the Congress, two senior leaders home minister R Lalzilriana and former health minister Lalriana Sailo, quit to join the MNF.

“I believe the Congress will not get even 10 out of the 40 sears. If we come to power, we will carry out complete Prohibition. It is a huge problem here. A lot of people die because of alcohol. There are thousands of widows in Mizoram because of this,” says MNF’s Zoramthanga.

The BJP said that while they are going to contest all 40 seats alone, they are “open to making arrangements with smaller parties like the newly formed Prism and Zoram People’s Movement. The counting of polls will be on December 11.



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