Mizoram, one of the five states that went to polls in this year’s last batch of Assembly elections, was largely missing from the mainstream media’s election coverage. For the past month, all major news channels seem to have had several debates and lengthy discussions about polling and possibilities in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Telangana. However, the excitement has not extended to the same length for Mizoram.
The only state in India’s northeast where the BJP has not been able to make a mark, one would expect that the saffron party would do everything in its capacity to be able to woo the voters in Mizoram. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who campaigned across the poll-bound states in the Hindi heartland, did not visit Mizoram. Congress, too, which boasts of a custodian status in Mizoram for the “peace and stability” it brought in 1986, had one major campaign rally with Rahul Gandhi, while the others stood cancelled.
There was a deafening silence in Mizoram—almost a sense of neglect—a historical pattern seen in the northeastern states.
No Poll Excitement For Mizoram
For the “mainland” public, Mizoram has once again become a distant state. There was hardly any curiosity about the 40-seat Assembly in the small, beautiful hill state.
Many critics have said that Manipur’s volatile situation has had an impact on the political scenario in Mizoram. The state’s chief minister, Zoramthanga, has himself refused to share the stage with the PM despite having an alliance with the party at Centre.
Mizoram not only shares its border with Manipur but also shares a strong sentiment with the Kuki-Zo community there, which is Mizoram’s majority population. The N Biren Singh-led BJP government in Manipur received a lot of backlash over its handling of the ethnic clashes.
However, there is still a lack of buzz for the political developments in Mizoram, compared to that in any of the other states that went to polls.
Are Tribal Issues Not Important?
Mizoram has a population of around 13 to 14 lakhs, as per reports (it was 10.91 lakhs as per the 2011 census). Nearly 95 per cent of the population descends from tribal origin, making up for the highest concentration of tribal people among all states, and most seats here are designated for Scheduled Tribes (STs).
Among the national parties, BJP, which is contesting on 23 seats, has mainly focused on infrastructural developments, combatting corruption and unemployment, while a few welfare schemes have been announced for the farmers. Congress, too, announced a bunch of welfare schemes, including subsidy on LPG cylinders, health insurance, pension etc and is seeking votes in the name of the country’s democracy.
For the BJP, making an inroad into Mizoram has also been challenging, for its focus is on the non-Christian minority communities. A few minutes of conversation with anyone in Mizoram would also make evident the sense of aversion a majority of the voters there have against the Hindutva narrative.
While these are important promises for the overall growth of Mizoram, there is a sense of lack of tribal identity in the manifestoes. Issues around land and the identity of the tribal communities are central to Mizoram's politics. Throughout history, there have been several concerns related to land rights, disputes and claims in the hill state. Moreover, the need to preserve the culture, language, and traditions of Mizoram and promote their heritage is also of great significance for the voters.
The difference between them and the regional parties, like the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF) and the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM), is that the latter have banked on the tribal issues of Mizoram.
The MNF has promised the ‘unification’ of people belonging to the Zo community under one administration across states, creating a big platform to strengthen the tribal society. Meanwhile, the ZPM—a fairly newer party—has promised a corruption-free government that listens to the issues that matter the most to the people in Mizoram if it is given a chance. It has also emphasised on unification.
The ZPM already has a huge support base in the urban areas, where the people are tired of seeing the rotation between the Congress and the MNF.
Exit Poll Predictions
Most of the exit polls have predicted a hung assembly in Mizoram, while some have given an edge to the new and emerging ZPM.
The ABP news-C Voter analysis has given 15-21 seats to the MNF and 12-18 seats to the ZPM, while the Congress and BJP are predicted to get 2-8 and 0-5 seats, respectively. Jan Ki Baat gave MNF 10-14 seats and ZPM 15-25 seats. India Today-Axis My India was the exit poll analysis which gave the ZPM a clear majority, predicting 28-35 seats to the party, while only 3-7 seats for the incumbent MNF.
The counting of votes is underway after it was postponed by the Election Commission in view of the Sunday church prayers. A clearer picture about whom the voters favour will be available by this evening.