Congress eyes hat-trick in Mizoram

Congress eyes hat-trick in Mizoram

Courtesy : Nationalist Bureau25/10/2018 21:12

Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla is sure of brushing aside ‘saffron surge’ in north-eastern states

New Delhi: Kicking off the BJP’s poll campaign in Aizawl, party president Amit Shah had exuded confidence that Mizoram would be the 20th state under the saffron party’s rule, but Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla of the Congress-rules state feels otherwise.

Shah in his speech on October 18 had referred to the electoral victories of his party in Nagaland and Meghalaya, but Thanhawla is confident that the Congress would brush aside the “saffron surge” for a hat-trick of wins, and one of the reasons for this is the BJP’s image as a party driven by the Hindutva agenda.

Mizoram is a Christian-majority state, as are Nagaland and Meghalaya. But the similarities end there.

The BJP has had a presence in the other two states for two decades now. It hardly had any presence in Mizoram, except for winning five seats in an autonomous council for a minority tribe (Chakma) in April.

Also, unlike the other two states, party ideology matters more in Mizoram than candidates or alleged fiscal incentives.

Local BJP leaders are wary of the handicap the party carries to the Assembly election on November 28, despite conquering six other north-eastern states since 2016 either on its own or in alliance with regional parties.

Though the BJP has decided to contest all the 40 seats in Mizoram, the Congress does not see it as a major challenger, unlike the regional Mizo National Front (MNF) that began as an insurgent outfit under the legendary Laldenga in 1966.

After being in power for two consecutive terms, the Congress is expected to face a tough challenge from the MNF in the upcoming Assembly polls.

But the MNF is a constituent of the BJP-helmed North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), whose regional members have, by default, been traditional rivals of the Congress.

The regional party’s campaign received a shot in the arm after two influential MLAs — former ministers R Lalzirliana and Lalrinliana Sailo — quit the Congress and joined the MNF.

More alliances 

The Congress would also be up against two regional alliances. One is the Zoram People’s Movement, that three relatively old regional parties — Zoram Nationalist Party, Mizoram People’s Conference, and Zoram Exodus Movement — had forged last year.

The other is the Peoples’ Representation for Identity and Status of Mizoram, which began as an RTI-based rights group a decade ago.

The MNF is wary of a split in the “non-Congress vote share” and is guarded against its projection as the ‘B team’ of the BJP.

“We have won on our own in the past, and we are confident that the people will teach the corrupt Congress government a lesson,” MNF president and former chief minister Zoramthanga said while terming the New land Use Policy (NLUP) a failure, which  “did more harm than good” to the ecology and to the rural economy.

Congress leaders said the BJP’s strategy of in the Christian-majority states of the northeast has been to go it alone and cobble up post-poll alliances with the constituents of NEDA.

This, they said, has been done to save the blushes for a “Christian party like the MNF.”

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