Mizoram assembly elections: BJP has never recorded a win but it’s a poll issue this time
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has never won an assembly seat in Mizoram. Five years ago, the party fielded 17 candidates for the 40 assembly seats. But it garnered just 0.37% vote share (2,139 votes).
A lot has changed since 2013. The party formed governments in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Tripura and is part of the ruling coalition in Nagaland and Meghalaya.
Enthused by these successes, BJP is fielding 39 candidates this time around. The party is the talking point not just among the state’s 7 lakh plus voters but is also an important factor for its rivals too.
In a state where Christians comprise 87% of the population, the BJP’s pro-Hindutva image doesn’t have many takers. But most agree that it might not just open its account, but could influence government formation as well, in the event of a hung verdict.
“BJP has never had any influence in Mizoram elections. But due to dissidence within Congress, which led to some of their leaders joining the saffron party, BJP may win one or two seats this time,” said Prof. J Doungel, from political science department of Mizoram University.
The BJP’s confidence stems from the fact that earlier this year it won 12 of the 40 seats in Nagaland and 2 of the 60 seats in Meghalaya — both Christian majority states in the region where the party is part of government.
“We are a secular party and there’s no question of suppressing religious rights of anyone. If BJP comes to power, the state will benefit from various central schemes which the Congress government hasn’t implemented well,” said JV Hluna, the party’s state unit chief.
The battle for votes in Mizoram is a direct fight between ruling Congress which has been in power since 2008 and Mizo National Front (MNF), the biggest regional outfit. Both parties have a saffron connection.
MNF is part of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), a regional anti-Congress platform started by BJP.
“We are part of NEDA only for parliamentary polls. There’s no question of any alliance at the state level. BJP’s pro-Hindutva image won’t work in Mizoram and it should consider itself lucky if it wins one seat,” said former chief minister and MNF president Zoramthanga.
The Congress also has a BJP link. In April this year, both parties joined hands to rule the Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC) in Mizoram after the election there threw a fractured verdict.
“That alliance happened because the BJP members who got elected in CADC were all former Congress workers and promised to return to the party. But it’s been six months and they have not done it yet,” said chief minister Lal Thanhawla.
“If BJP comes to power in Mizoram, it could hurt the social fabric of Mizoram. In the unlikely event of a hung assembly, Congress would prefer to sit in opposition than have a tie-up with BJP,” he added.
Congress accuses BJP and MNF of having a secret deal. The party is distributing a leaflet where Zoramthanga and BJP president Amit Shah is seen together and it carries this slogan — “MNF and BJP-Suppressing Christians and building a Hindu nation”.
Both MNF and BJP deny any secret agreement between the two parties.