Mizoram’s 686,305 voters, almost 51% of them women, will on Monday choose between a flagship programme of the ruling Congress and the Opposition’s call for a return to ‘Mizo nationalism’.
Mizoram’s voting percentage has been on the higher side — 76.32% in 1998, 78.65% in 2003 and 80.02% in 2008. It is expected to be no different this time despite low-key campaigning owing to restrictions by a church-controlled NGO.
The Congress hopes to ride the ‘success’ of its pro-poor New Land Use Policy (NLUP) by giving `1.25 lakh to 135,000 of its 257,581 households in a state where 50% of the population have been the programme’s beneficiaries. “The people voted us to power last time so that we could implement NLUP. They want us to continue the good work,” chief minister Lal Thanhawla said.
Two factors have kindled Congress hopes. One is the tendency of Mizoram’s voters to give a party a second chance. The other is the three-party Mizoram Democratic Alliance for “betraying a certain lack of confidence”.
Alliances have not worked in the hill state. But the Mizo National Front (MNF), the dominant party in the MDA, admitted to tying up with two other regional parties after assessing its strengths and weaknesses seat by seat. It hopes to cash in on resentment among the rural poor who missed out on NLUP “for not being Congress supporters”.
The MNF is also banking on its credo of a ‘return to Mizo nationalism’ — a concept of self-rule steeped in Christian values — to translate into votes. This concept has also made the party repeatedly target the Congress for trying to impose ‘Indian nationalism’ on the Mizos.