The ruling Mizo National Front (MNF) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are neither friends nor foes despite being constituents of the National Democratic Alliance, Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga indicated on Tuesday.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had said the MNF and regional rival Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) were entry points for the BJP in Mizoram. The ZPM, on the other hand, accused the MNF of diluting its Christianity-influenced identity by aligning with the ‘Hindutva’ BJP.
Seeking to shed light on the ambiguous relationship between the two ideologically opposite parties in poll-bound Mizoram, he said the MNF’s support to the BJP has been largely issue-based and dependent on how such issues impact the State and the Mizo people.
“We have our principle and BJP has its but we have to act according to the Constitution since we all come under one administration. I am a founder-member of the NDA and we extend issue-based support to them in Delhi. We oppose any issue that is against the interest of the Mizos or against our ideology, such as the Uniform Civil Code,” Mr. Zoramthanga, a three-time Chief Minister, and the president of the MNF, said.
He trashed the BJP’s accusation that his government had created hurdles for several road and other infrastructure projects in Mizoram. “I think no other Chief Minister in India has extended as much cooperation as I have,” he said, welcoming the BJP to probe the alleged scam in the MNF government’s Socio-Economic Development Project (SEDP).
The SEDP, entailing ₹3 lakh per beneficiary, had helped the MNF come to power. The BJP has promised an upgraded version of the scheme called LOTUS (Livelihood Opportunity Transformation and Upliftment Scheme).
“They can promise the stars and the moon. Let them come to power first and investigate. But I don’t think they will do it because everything is recorded and all beneficiaries received money in their accounts,” Mr. Zoramthanga said.
He identified the ZPM as the MNF’s strongest opposition but said the ZPM would “would be lucky” to improve upon its 2018 performance as it has come across as a khichdi (merger of smaller parties) party riddled by internal problems and harping on an unclear “new system”.
Admitting that the anti-incumbency factor may impact the prospects of the MNF in a few constituencies, he claimed his party would return to power with possibly more seats than five years ago, when it secured 27 seats. He said the feedback from the ground gave him the confidence that the MNF would form the government again.
“The ZPM will be the second best party,” he said.
‘Zo unification crucial’
Mr. Zoramthanga insisted that ‘Zo unification’ would play a big role in the November 7 elections to the 40-member Mizoram Assembly. Zo unification refers to the goal of bringing all ethnic communities — Mizos of Mizoram, Kuki-Zomis of Manipur, Chins of Myanmar and Bangladesh — under one administrative umbrella.
“The Zo people of Manipur have suffered [since ethnic violence broke out on May 3 in that State]. We have sided with them because they are our brothers. The people of Mizoram and Manipur are in favour of the MNF’s return to power,” he said.
On more than 30,000 Myanmar nationals, displaced by a military coup and taking shelter in Mizoram since February 2021, Mr. Zoramthanga said his government did what New Delhi had done for the refugees from Bangladesh in 1971. “It is a humanitarian cause and the people want the MNF to rule again to take care of the Myanmar nationals,” he said.
He defended his government’s decision to defy Delhi’s order to collect the biometrics of the Myanmar nationals. “We had very little time as the elections were drawing near,” he said while playing down the issue of drug trafficking from Myanmar to the rest of the country through Mizoram.