Mizoram Results 2018: Why Did Congress Lose Its Last N-E Bastion?
Another election in the North East and the Congress loses its last bastion in the region – Mizoram. The Mizo National Front (MNF), the Congress’ principle opposition in the state, registered a landslide victory, winning 26 of the 40 assembly seats in the state. The Congress’ tally was reduced to just 5 from a previous tally of 34.
But why this massive loss for the Congress, inspite of all the development indicators in the state like literacy, poverty, nutrition and infant mortality, increasing under Congress rule?
Well, there are a number of factors that contributed to this loss. And believe it or not, the BJP isn’t the most significant of all of them.
1. Alienation Of The Church
Over 87 per cent of the population of Mizoram is Christian, and the Church has considerable sway in even the most mundane of day to day activities – including the elections.
In 2015, the Congress government took a landmark step by lifting prohibition – or the ban on alcohol from the state – which was in effect for 18 years.
The MNF on the other hand, had made prohibition a major poll issue and vowed to bring it back if voted to power.
While on the ground, it didn’t seem like the people at large had a major aversion to the lifting of the alcohol ban – in a state where the difference in votes between the Congress and the MNF was less than 16 percent, a small swing in votes, went a long way.
Also Read : Mizoram Elections 2018: Experts Have Their Say
2. The Immigration Issue
A sentimental issue in Mizoram is that of the Mizo identity as was evident from the widespread protest in the capital city of Aizawl when a non-Mizo Election Commissioner removed a senior Mizo IAS officer on allegations of interfering with the polls.
Flanked by Myanmar and Bangladesh, Mizoram has a significant immigrant population, and local Mizo groups have been known to protest against the influx and assimilation of these immigrants.
Historically, and especially over the last 10 years of its rule, the Congress party has not taken a clear stance on the issue of immigrants- something which has rubbed the indigenous Mizos the wrong way.
3. The Rural-Tribal Vote And The BJP
While the BJP has only registered a very low vote-share this election, and won just 1 seat, it has gone a long way in shifting the rural tribal vote away from the Congress.
This is true especially for the the border districts of the state – the Bru and Chakma dominated areas.
The thrust of the BJP campaign was in these areas where it used issues of representation and infrastructural issues like roads to sway the tribal votes.
Meanwhile the soft stance of the Congress on the issue of assimilating rural tribes into mainstream Mizo society, also swung votes towards the MNF
4. Anti-Incumbency & Newer Parties
Lastly, the general anti-incumbency wave that comes after two terms and also the entry of smaller parties like the Zoram People’s Movement, which is wildly popular amongst the youth, and also won the second highest number of seats in the state with 8 seats. These newer parties divided the Congress’ vote and ate into its vote share.
Moreover, with the BJP- which inspite of its poor show- caught the imagination of the state’s people on account of being the party running the central government. While the saffron party campaigned vociferously against the Congress, it didn’t campaign against the other regional parties, in the hope of a post-poll alliance.
All in all, while the Congress has a lot to cheer about after this set of assembly elections, it now has no influence in the North-East at all.