Mizoram Polls: Parties aligning anti-BJP stance
In this small hill state of just about 10 lakh people, parties' political equations appear as treacherous as its twisting and turning roads -- Both the ruling BJP and main opposition MNF are trying hard to prove their 'anti-BJP' credentials and both have had their own alliances with the saffron party.
The sudden prominence attained by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) for the November 28 elections for 40 assembly seats of this Christian-majority state also contradicts a basic statistics of Mizoram's three-decade-old electoral history that the saffron party has never won an assembly seat so far.
But the BJP is now the main target of poll campaigns mounted by the Congress as well as the Mizo National Front (MNF) -- the two parties that have always ruled Mizoram one after another.
As the campaign gains momentum, both the Congress and the MNF are accusing each other of being the BJP's "real ally", by digging out old pictures, documents and meeting details from the past and splashing them all over before the voters.
While the Congress and the MNF are leaving no stones unturned to paint the BJP as "anti-Christian", the saffron party has launched a spirited campaign to get power in this strategically important north-eastern state sandwiched between Myanmar and Bangladesh, with the party president Amit Shah declaring that Christmas would be celebrated in Mizoram under the BJP rule this December.
The counting of votes would take place on December 11.
Mizoram is been seen by the BJP leaders as the "final frontier" in its 'Congress-free North East' campaign, as the party has already secured power in Assam, Tripura, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, besides joining the ruling coalition in Meghalaya and Nagaland.
Mizoram is significant for the Congress too, as it remains the only state under the party's rule as against as many as five just about two years ago, which included Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
The Congress has been in power in Mizoram since 2008 and is eyeing the third consecutive term. In the outgoing assembly, the Congress has 34 MLAs, while the MNF has five and Mizoram People's Conference has one.
The Congress improved its tally in 2013 elections, from 32 in 2008, but the BJP is making an all-out effort to snatch the power.
Earlier in two other Christian-dominated north-eastern states, Meghalaya and Nagaland, the BJP went on to become part of the government after joining hands with the runners-up, while the parties with the highest number of seats (including Congress in Meghalaya) could not get the power.
While the MNF has been the party of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the saffron party has decided to fight alone on all 40 seats.
The Congress is, however, accusing the MNF, its traditional rival in the state, of being silently in league with the BJP for the upcoming polls, in which about 7.68 lakh voters including 3.93 women are eligible to exercise their franchise.
The Congress has published 50,000 copies of a leaflet in Mizo language depicting the relationship between the BJP and the MNF while putting on the front a picture of the two party chiefs -- Amit Shah and Zoramthanga -- sitting together.
It contains various pictures and details of the former Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga of MNF attending NDA and North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) meetings with seniorBJP leaders.
On its part, the MNF is vehemently denying any relationship with the BJP for the polls and points out at the alliance the two national parties had in the Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC) in Mizoram.
Congress had to publicly announce that it is no longer an ally of the BJP in the Council, an autonomous council for ethnic Chakma people that exercises legislative, executive and judicial powers over allotted departments in its territory spread over 1500 sq km.
Election to the 20-member CADC on April 20 gave a fractured mandate -- the MNF got eight seats, the Congress won six, and the BJP got five. Poll to one seat was stayed by the Gauhati High Court.
Traditional national rivals -- BJP and Congress -- later formed a coalition to stake claim to form the executive committee of the tribal council. The coalition, however, faced a setback after some Congress members withdrew support to the BJP-led CADC.
"The Congress's allegation that the BJP is behind MNF and is a secret ally has been reversed. It is having an adverse impact on the Congress itself and has exposed the party," said Robert Romawia Royte, a senior MNF leader and the party's candidate from Aizawl East-II constituency.
He said the MNF was planning to expose the "alliance" in a big way, but the Congress itself admitted it by saying they were breaking the alliance.
A Congress leader, however, said that the people are well aware of the fact that the MNF is part of the BJP-led NDA and NEDA.
"The NEDA Convenor and the BJP leader from Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma, has come here several times and worked with the MNF in the selection of candidates," he alleged.
The Congress leader alleged the BJP is not liked by the people here as the party is seen as being anti-Christian and therefore it was banking on the MNF.
"We want to protect the dignity of the church, which is already at stake in Meghalaya and Nagaland," he said.
(With inputs from agencies.)