In 2013, Mizoram bucked the trend of other states going to the BJP by being decisively retained by the Congress. This time around, however, as the Congress made headway in the other states, Mizoram slipped out dramatically from the Congress’ hand. This is significant because the North-Eastern states have become Congress-mukt, since Mizoram was the last state held by the Grand Old Party in the region.
But the other major aspects are as hard to miss.
First, the BJP scripted history by opening its account and having an MLA in Mizoram for the first time. The national party has been contesting Mizoram Assembly elections since 1993 but with zero success even as its vote share has fallen with every poll: in 2013, it cornered just 0.37% of the vote share, its lowest ever.
However, despite Amit Shah bravely declaring Christmas in Mizoram will be celebrated under BJP rule, the party lost in 38 of the 39 seats it contested, in some constituencies even getting less votes than fringe, newly formed political outfits such as the Zoram Thar.
The one seat the BJP won – which it did so by a clear margin – was Tuichawng, where former Congress Minister of State Dr Buddha Dhan Chakma (who quit the Congress close to polls) dramatically knocked the wind out of the MNF’s Rasik Mohan Chakma, whose aides had in early November said confidently he would win by the largest margin in Mizoram.
The winning of Tuichawng, a predominantly Chakma area, can however be hardly celebrated as a victory for the BJP in Mizoram since it is more of a regional phenomenon even when going by the standards of a state that has just 40 seats.
The second remarkable aspect of the election results is that the just-over-a-year old Zoram People’s Movement – a conglomeration of two established parties and five other start-up political outfits – won as many seats as it did: it won eight, out of which six are within Aizawl city. The ZPM’s CM candidate, Lalduhoma, also won both the seats he contested, dethroning the sitting CM in the latter’s bastion.
That it won as many as it did has stumped most political observers because the ZPM had faced its first elections without a conventional party structure (it has no units or blocks but rather relies on local steering committees), and the overall conclusion is that its promise of a new way of doing things has resonated with voters, particularly with younger ones in urban areas but also in rural areas where it cornered a sizable vote share even where it could not win.
Thirdly, the Congress has been decimated in a state where it has never been completely out of the political picture for the past four decades. The party went from 34 MLAs in the 2013 elections to just five this time around, and former Cabinet Minister Zodintluanga appears to be the only one among the newly-elected Congress MLAs who has what can be considered a state-wide appeal, although his constituency is a rural one with a mixed ethnicity voter population.
Congress veteran, five-term Chief Minister and nine-time MLA Lal Thanhawla lost both the seats he contested while eight of the 10 Congress ministers who contested these elections on a Congress ticket – including the CM’s younger brother and heir apparent Lal Thanzara – also lost. Political observers point out the Congress leadership may just be in for a shake-up.
But the main takeaway has been the Mizo National Front’s thumping victory with 26 out of 40 seats in its kitty. As pointed out in an earlier piece, the MNF was in a major financial crisis as late as end-March 2018, and had to risk alienating an army of party leaders by selecting its 40 candidates in such a way that they could foot their own campaign bills. The gamble has obviously paid off.
But as successful as this gamble was another, perhaps as influential aspect: the defections of two top Congress leaders – incumbent party vice-president R Lalzirliana and former cabinet minister Lalrinliana Sailo – to the MNF just months ahead of voting day and the ensuing internal crisis this triggered in the Congress.
All these, coupled with a strong undercurrent of anti-incumbency against the Congress, which has been in power for a decade, sealed the MNF’s return to power after 10 years and Zoramthanga is set to return to the CMO as the swearing-in of the new government is scheduled for December 15, the same day that the seventh Mizoram Legislative Assembly’s term ends.
(Adam Saprinsanga is the editor of the Frontier Despatch. Views expressed in the article are his own)
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