The exit polls have given the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF), a constituent of the BJP-helmed National Democratic Alliance, an edge in Mizoram but the results of the Assembly election on December 4 may spring a few surprises.
The counting in Christian-majority Mizoram was scheduled for December 3 along with four other States. The Election Commission deferred it by a day following appeals by the political parties, church bodies, and social organisations to not hold the exercise on a Sunday, “a day for church services”.
The single-phase poll for the 40 Assembly seats in Mizoram on November 7 was believed to have been a more intense multi-cornered contest than in 2018. Three parties – the MNF, regional challenger Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM), and the Congress – contested all 40 while the BJP fielded candidates in 23, down from 39 five years before.
The Congress, for the first time in more than four decades without former Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla in command, hopes to upstage the MNF and an upbeat ZPM. Local pollsters, however, have billed it as a contest primarily between the MNF and the ZPM.
The results on December 4 would decide the fate of 174 candidates, including 16 women, based on votes cast by 80.43% of the State’s electorate.
Most candidates devoted their Sunday to church services and associated social activities. Chief Minister Zoramthanga, also the president of the MNF, said his party did all it could and “everything is in God’s hands now”.
He was confident that the MNF’s handling of the refugee crisis – Mizoram is sheltering more than 35,000 people displaced from Manipur, Myanmar, and Bangladesh – and call for “Zo reunification” would stand the party in good stead. “We are confident of retaining power,” he said after the poll.
Zo reunification refers to the dream of people belonging to the Zo group living together. The majority of Mizos of Mizoram, the Kuki-Zos of Manipur, the Chins of Myanmar, and the Kuki-Chins of Bangladesh are clubbed in this group.
Lalduhoma, a former IPS officer and ZPM’s chief ministerial candidate, also exuded confidence about his party’s prospects. “The ZPM will get a majority and form a stable government,” he said.
State Congress chief Lalsawta said the voters of Mizoram have been known to choose wisely. “We will accept whatever number of seats we win,” he said, not ruling out the possibility of a hung House.
Rise of ZPM
In 2018, the MNF ended 10 years of Congress rule by winning 26 seats. The ZPM bagged eight seats – its candidates contested as Independents since the party was not recognised then – while the Congress finished third with five seats.
While the Congress struggled to consolidate its position in the last five years, the ZPM grew in popularity riding on factors such as anti-incumbency, underdevelopment, and failure of the MNF to fulfil its 2018 election promises.
The popularity of the ZPM was evident in the urban areas when it won all 11 seats in south-central Mizoram’s Lunglei civic body elections in March.
The BJP, which bagged a seat in a Buddhist Chakma-dominated area in 2018, hopes to increase its tally on the strength of candidates who defected from the MNF. Mizoram is the only State in the northeast where the BJP is not in power on its own or in alliance with regional parties.