This time around, five states had a go at the hustings. Mizoram was the fifth, on November 25.
While the prospects of the many political parties and candidates in Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan, were dissected by TV anchors, newspapers, poll pundits and politicians, no one evinced any interest in talking about Mizoram. It was the same in the print and social media.
Not that northeasterners actually mind. They are used to decades of monumental neglect and to being a veritable blip on the national radar of Indian politics. Arguments made for greater coverage for the Northeast are often dismissively put down to a ‘persecution complex’.
What also takes the cake is the fact that except for one poll survey agency, no one was commissioned to do an opinion or exit poll on Mizoram politics. Even that single agency interested in Mizoram — CVoter — is reported to have funded the survey with its own money as no media house came forward to fund such a survey in the backwaters.
The media, much like the political establishment, advocates more coverage of the Northeast, but is loath to make the investments that will enable suitable coverage. This is a narrative that is here to stay despite ‘the winds of change’ having hit the Indian capital.
Ironically, Mizoram with more than 81% voting, registered the highest political participation among the states that went to the polls.
A top Election Commission official stated that the behaviour of the public during the elections in Mizoram should be a model for the rest of the country. One reason for such orderly conduct is the involvement of civil society organisations, including the powerful Church that came out with a list of desirable and undesirable activities for political parties.
You can bet that the Northeast will continue to be on the periphery when the parliamentary elections take place in about five months. After all, only 25 Lok Sabha MPs or less than 5% are returned from that region.
On a lighter note, the only excited people during the allocation of poll duties were perhaps the government poll officials who were keen to try out the ‘exotic’ experience that ‘faraway’ Mizoram provides. This, by and large, characterises the ‘mainstream’ approach to affairs in the Northeast.
POST-SCRIPT: The Lal Thanhawla-led Congress has retained power in Mizoram — the fifth time Congress has come to power in the state that had seen decades of incessant insurgency.
It is incidentally the only state in the country that was carpet-bombed by its own Indian Air Force fighter jets on March 5, 1966 in an effort to quell a rebellion led by the Mizo National Front (MNF) which had taken over the Assam Rifles headquarters in Aizawl.
The MNF itself was the offshoot of a voluntary group that had been set up to address peoples’ misery due to a terrible famine when no government help and aid was forthcoming.