By Sushil Kutty
The Congress was booted out in 2018 assembly polls.. And now it is harbouring hopes to make a return. The ruling Mizo National Front and the opposition Zoram People’s Movement haven’t given up hope, though. The BJP in Mizoram has to contend with the sordid happenings in neighbouring Manipur. The MNF is led by Chief Minister Zoramthanga and the MNF and the Congress have held power for three and four terms respectively since the signing of the Mizo peace accord. The MNF is banking on its record of good administration and effective management of government resources for the uplift of the people to keep it in power.
For Prime Minister Narendra Modi, however, Mizoram will be haunted by Manipur. With the Mizoram assembly elections set for November 7, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have to campaign in the state, the unsavoury events in Manipur notwithstanding. It would be too much to expect the Prime Minister to hold a presser. Prime Minister Modi will be atop a stage barricaded from the hoi polloi and the meddlesome Press.
Other top BJP leaders might address the media. Both Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP President JP Nadda will be in Mizoram. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address an election rally in Mamit town on October 30, says the PM’s tentative schedule.
Meantime, Congress leader and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi has come and gone. Gandhi with a neatly trimmed beard was in Mizoram on October 16 for a ‘padayatra’ and a rally. Unlike Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi was not coy or scared of facing the media.
A cheeky journalist asked Rahul about political dynasties and the former Congress President snapped at the journo without showing any malice which anybody watching the action would certify is a hard act to follow. The Congress has since released its candidates list and the party will be contesting all 40 seats.
The Bharatiya Janata Party will be testing its luck from 23 constituencies. Two of the star campaigners for the BJP are Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and Tripura Chief Minister Manik Saha. Sarma in particular has staked his reputation on laying the ground in the northeast for the BJP for the looming 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Ensuring a third term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi is lifeline for all BJP chief ministers/Union ministers and MPs. Himanta Biswa Sarma is considered a big draw in the northeast. Another northeasterner, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju, is the BJP’s election in-charge for Mizoram. The BJP is banking on Reang and Chakma tribals for seats in Mizoram.
The saffron party is relying on ally Mizo National Front to remain in power. Polling will be on a Tuesday and counting of votes on a Sunday. As many as 174 candidates have filed for contesting the elections and that includes 16 women. The Mizo National Front (MNF) and the main opposition party, the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM), are both regional/state outfits. The Congress and the BJP are basically outsiders. The Aam Aadmi Party is trying to edge in sideways by contesting four seats. As many as 27 of the 174 candidates are “independents”.
Rahul Gandhi’s padayatra in Aizwal drew thousands of Congress supporters and members of the public. At least for the stretch covered, from a place called Chanmari to a spot called Treasury Square, it was reminiscent of the Gandhi scion’s Bharat Jodo Yatra. Gandhi waved at the people lined on both sides of the road and shook hands while interacting with some. Making eye contact is one way to get voters on your side. The Congress leader did not miss interacting with students and has the potential to sway voting in the Christian-dominated Mizoram.
Aizwal and Lunglei were two places in the state where the Congress leader lingered. Without doubt Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi are pitted against each other in Mizoram, the main campaigners for the BJP and the Congress respectively. It will be interesting to see which one triumphs. For the time being, though, both parties are bound by an agreement with the Mizoram Peoples Forum not to hold public processions post the announcement of the election date.
The Congress had only five seats in the outgoing assembly with the MNF and the Zoram Peoples’ Movement ahead of it in numbers. The BJP will be battling a resurgent Congress. The Mizoram-Assam boundary dispute and drugs entering Mizoram are the two big election issues with the boundary dispute directly involving the BJP and its Assam Chief Minister.
An interesting aside to the story is that 35 MLAs of the outgoing assembly were. “crorepatis”. This is according to the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and the Mizoram Election Watch. There were 39 MLAs and of them none was a woman. That said, these are not election issues for 2023. Chances are the Assam-Mizoram boundary dispute and the Prime Minister’s “forever silence” on Manipur will cast their shadows on the Mizoram election results. (IPA Service)