A cursory look at the vote shares obtained by political parties in Mizoram — the victorious Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) garnered 37.9%, the incumbent Mizo National Front (MNF) 35.1%, the Congress 20.8% and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) 5.1% — suggests that the ZPM managed to win a clear majority, 27 out of the 40 seats, because of a fractured mandate. Yet, that will only be a limited reading as the regional party also upended a 36-year-old duopoly in the State with power rotating between the MNF and the Congress. Defeating the MNF was not easy either, as the Zoramthanga-led party had assiduously sought to promote ethnic nationalism by projecting its solidarity with the Kuki-Zo tribals in Manipur and the Chin people in neighbouring Myanmar, both of whom are mired in different conflicts. The Congress meanwhile tried to woo the voters in the predominantly Christian State by harping on the fact that the regional parties are prospective allies of the Hindutva-promoting BJP, especially the MNF which is part of the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance. That a plurality of voters — more than a third of the 8.6 lakh strong electorate in India’s second least populous State — sought to look beyond the politics of ethnic nationalism or the communitarian appeals and endorsed the ZPM suggests that its call for a corruption-free regime and an agenda of governance with the interests of the youth at the core had a decisive number of takers.
The ZPM was successful in projecting itself as a force for change as it got popular members from Mizoram’s civil society to endorse the party, with even some to represent it as candidates. This gave a decisive heft to the party led by former IPS officer and presumptive Chief Minister Lalduhoma. With the ZPM coming to power on its own, it will be easier for it to remain true to its quasi-movement ideals, but it will receive overtures from the BJP (which won two seats) to accommodate the latter in a coalition. The ZPM will have to work out a delicate balance in achieving its goals of clean and independent governance even while seeking to build on the State’s relationship with the Union government. Smaller States, especially those in the North East, have limited avenues of resource mobilisation and are too dependent upon the Union government for their finances. Mizoram, for example, has among the highest Union transfers to revenue receipts ratios in the country — 85.7%. If the ZPM can focus on ways to diversify the economy beyond agriculture, into areas such as eco-friendly tourism, and value-added services leveraging its population’s high literacy rate and education, it can live up to its promise of decisive change in the State.