Mizoram 2018

In Mizoram, BJP banks on minorities

Final frontier: A BJP campaign in Aizawl.  

In Christian-majority Mizoram, the minorities matter for the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The BJP has been an also-ran in Mizoram since 1993, when it garnered 3.11% votes, the best so far. But the bid to conquer its “final frontier” has made the party invest heavily in this north-eastern State like never before.

The focus of the BJP, apart from the miniscule number of non-tribal voters, is on four minority tribes that are a potent electoral force in at least 11 Assembly constituencies.

These tribes are the Buddhist Chakmas, the Christian Maras, and Lais, who are otherwise part of the greater Mizo society, and the Hindu and Christian Brus.

The BJP received a shot in the arm when former Minister Buddha Dhan Chakma, cross with the Lal Thanhawla government’s “discrimination” against the Chakmas, switched over from the Congress in October. Top Mara leader Hiphei quit as the Assembly Speaker to join the BJP a few days later.

“The BJP should make a difference for minorities in Mizoram who are often denied equal rights,” Mr. Chakma, the party’s candidate for the Tuichawng seat in the southernmost Lawngtlai district, told The Hindu.

“The BJP has come in with full force, but the Congress would have had it easy had the wrong candidates not been fielded,” said Amit Kumar Chakma, who was replaced by Kali Kumar Tongchangya in the last minute as the Congress candidate for Tuichawng.

Mr. Tongchangya belongs to a minority community within the Chakmas.

Chakma influence

The Chakmas dominate Tuichawng and West Tuipui in adjoining Lunglei district. They also have a significant presence in the Thorang and Kolasib seats along with the Brus, who have a large presence in Hachhek, Dampa and Mamit seats.

The Lais dominate the Lawngtlai East and Lawngtlai West constituencies, as do the Maras in Palak and Siaha. “The minority areas have been deprived of the kind of development we hope the BJP, in power across most States in India, would ensure,” Mr. Hiphei said.

BJP State president J.V. Hluna admitted the party had a plan for the minorities. “We hope to win five to 10 of the 40 seats and become the king-maker. We can do so only with support from the majority Mizos,” he said.

Mr Hluna, who is contesting the Tawi seat against former Congress Minister and Mizo National Front (MNF) heavyweight R. Lalzirliana, said the Congress had been brainwashing the people by branding the BJP anti-Church.

“We cannot shrug off Hindutva, but the Congress is taking advantage of blind faith to say the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh would be flooding the State to convert Christians to Hinduism. We are telling the Mizos that they are protected by Article 371 (G) of the Constitution,” he said.

Specific to Mizoram, Article 371(G) insulates the religious or social practices of Mizos, their customary laws and ownership of land from any changes. “People are seeing through the Congress game, particularly with their president, Rahul Gandhi, trying to prove to be a better Hindu than BJP leaders. They have projected an image that the BJP is anti-Christianity, and we know it is difficult to break the ice,” the BJP’s State secretary, Gary T. Haokip, said.

But the BJP has been convincing people that it is for the underprivileged, that it wants people to get roads, electricity, cooking fuel and livelihood options which 10 years of Congress rule failed to provide, he added.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 4:20:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/mizoram-assembly-elections-2018/in-mizoram-bjp-banks-on-minorities/article25478453.ece

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