A “more organised” Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is eyeing its maiden entry into the government of Christian-majority Mizoram, considered its “final frontier” in the northeast comprising eight States.
The BJP has also set sights on the regional Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) as a possible ally if no party attains a majority in the 40-member Assembly after the November 7 elections. The ZPM is expected to give the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF), a partner in the BJP-helmed National Democratic Alliance at the Centre, a tough fight.
“We had candidates for all 40 seats but merely contesting 40 seats is one thing and putting up candidates capable of winning is another. So, instead of contesting all, we concentrated on 23 seats so that we are in a position to be in the government,” Kiren Rijiju, the Minister of Earth Sciences and the BJP’s State in charge told The Hindu.
The BJP had contested 39 seats in 2018 but Buddha Dhan Chakma was the party’s lone winner from Tuichawng, where the Buddhist Chakma people for the largest chunk of voters. The party garnered 8.09% of the total votes polled with 33 of its candidates forfeiting deposits.
“We are confident of winning a good number of seats. This confidence is based on ground reports and homework over the past few months,” Mr. Rijiju said.
The BJP’s hopes are also riding on three MNF turncoats – former Assembly Speaker Lalrinliana Sailo (Mamit constituency), former minister K. Beichhua (Saiha), and former party advisor T. Lalengthanga (West Tuipui) – apart from the expected support in four districts where the minority Bru, Chakma, Lai, and Mara people hold the key.
These communities inhabit the Mamit, Lunglei, Lawngtlai, and Siaha districts. Mamit is in northern Mizoram while the other three districts are in the south.
The BJP replaced Buddha Dhan Chakma, a doctor by profession who announced his retirement from politics in August, with Durjya Dhan Chakma this time. The party’s State unit president, Vanlalhmuaka is contesting the Dampa seat, synonymous with the State’s lone tiger reserve bordering Bangladesh.
“As a more organised party compared to 2018, we will have the number necessary for others to form a coalition government,” Mr. Vanlalhmuaka said, insisting the BJP has set a realistic target.
The BJP rules Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, and Tripura and is a minor ally in the governments of Meghalaya and Tripura while it supports the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha government in Sikkim.
Pollsters in Mizoram believe that the November 7 election will be a close contest between the MNF and ZPM, both avowedly adhering to Christian values and the cause of ‘Zo unification’ envisaging the integration of Kuki, Mizo, Chin, and other ethnically related communities in Mizoram, Manipur, Myanmar, and Bangladesh.
Congress, on the other hand, has been in a rebuilding mode under new State chief Lalsawta after the retirement of five-time Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla a couple of years ago.
Mr. Rijiju hinted at the possibility of the ZPM, headed by former IPS officer Lalduhoma, replacing the MNF as the BJP’s ally in Mizoram if it emerges as the single-largest party. Local BJP leaders resent the MNF, specifically Chief Minister Zoramthanga, for being “two-faced” by keeping a distance from the saffron party at home while maintaining friendship at the Centre.
Mr. Zoramthanga has been critical of the BJP’s handling of the Manipur crisis and declared he would not share the dais with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the election campaign. The PM’s campaign in Mizoram was called off later.
“We have not had any discussion with the ZPM, whose fight is against the MNF and Congress. But if the ZPM wins a good number of seats, they will need us. They will need to work with the BJP. Mizoram is not a big State to generate its own revenue, it requires Central support,” Mr. Rijiju said.
The ZPM has denied warming up to the BJP but has not ruled out any post-poll possibilities.