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Mizoram: BJP Dark Horse in Traditional Congress-MNF Battleground?

Here’s everything you need to know about the Mizoram State Assembly Elections, which will be held on 28 November.

Updated
Explainers
12 min read
The fight for the Mizoram 2018 state assembly elections will predominantly be between the Lal Thanhawla-led Congress and the Mizo National Front (MNF) under its leader, Zoramthanga.
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Snapshot

Mizoram is gearing up for polls to its 40-member Assembly, which are to be conducted in a single phase on 28 November, and tensions are high for the Congress, as it’s the only state out of the eight making up the Northeast, where it is still in power. For the BJP, the elections are of paramount importance for the same reason. If they manage to win in these polls, they would have bagged the whole of the Northeast, and gotten a step ahead in its objective of a Congress-mukt Bharat.

Another major contender in these elections is the Mizo National Front (MNF), the only other party that’s been in power other than the Congress since Mizoram became a separate state – the 23rd state of India – on 20 February, 1987.

In a state wrought with dynastic politics, corruption charges and the row over Bru refugees – who are still fighting to be a part of the electorate – the November elections are going to be testing ground for all three of the main contenders, with smaller parties also trying their hand at securing some of the seats. While the results of the polls are to be announced on 11 December, here’s a guide to everything that’s happening in the time leading up to it.

Mizoram: BJP Dark Horse in Traditional Congress-MNF Battleground?

  1. 1. What Are the Issues Dominating Mizoram Politics?

    Anti-Incumbency:

    With the Congress ruling over Mizoram for over a decade under the leadership of Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, the party is facing anti-incumbency, according to multiple reports.

    Several factors have led to anti-incumbency against the Congress in the state. Two issues stand out: the sorry state of infrastructure in Mizoram, and the lifting on the ban on alcohol.

    Reports have claimed that the public are growing increasingly dissatisfied with the party as there has been no improvement of roads across the state. Speaking on behalf of the masses, the Minister of State for Road Transport and Highway Mansukh L Mandaviya had earlier blamed the Thanhawla-led Congress for the miserable conditions of the roads across the state. He had also accused the party of neglecting highway development, as well as not utilising the funds sanctioned by the Centre for the sole purpose of improving the condition of the roads in Mizoram.

    On the other hand, as this report by The New Indian Express states, there has been a steady rise in alcohol-related deaths across the state, ever since the Congress-led state government lifted the ban that was imposed under the Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition and Control) Act in 2014. This has been a factor that has led a large part of the population to be unhappy with the state government’s decision.

    But these two issues apart, agrarian discord has also been another factor that is working against the ruling party. Thousands of farmers took to the streets in protest, demanding land reforms and a newly regulated market system for the "sustainable development of farmers" on 28 September, PTI reported. Considering that farmers make up more than 70 percent of the Mizoram’s population (roughly 11 lakh), their agitation against the state government stands to affect the Congress in the upcoming polls.

    File image of Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla. 
    File image of Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla. 
    (Photo courtesy: Facebook/@Lal Thanhawla)

    Corruption Charges:

    Thanhawla's reputation had taken a hit when he was accused of corruption by the Deputy Controller of Mines, Lalhriatrenga Chhangte, of "amassing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.”

    In another alleged case of corruption, the Mizoram police had also filed a charge sheet against Thanhawla and two businessmen, when investigations revealed that more than Rs 5.25 crore were paid from various accounts of the Mumbai-based Eastern Overseas Corporation, which undertook two hydel project construction works in the state, to Oceanic Business Agency, a firm owned by a man named Lal Thanzaua.

    Another Congress state leader, Lalrobiaka (Dampa), had come under the opposition's radar when his assets grew mysteriously by a whopping 2,406 percent in just five years, the report added.

    Rift Within the Congress

    Adding to the party's woes, there have been several instances of rifts within the Congress, with several party members reportedly leaving to join rivals. Since September, at least five sitting Congress MLAs have resigned from their posts.

    These include R Lalzirliana, Lalrinliana Sailo, Buddha Dhan Chakma, Hmingdailova Khiangte and the latest exit – Speaker Hiphei, who resigned from the party and the House to join the BJP on 5 November. While Lalzirliana and Sailo have now joined opposition MNF, and Chakma the arch nemesis BJP, Khiangte has announced that he would contest the polls as an independent candidate.

    One of the main problems that the departing state Congress leaders seemed to have with Thanhawla, was that as the only Congress chief minister who is also heading a state party unit, he is known to act “independently and in an autocratic manner,” the report added.

    The exit of these Congress leaders poses a threat to the Thanhawla-led government, as they may stand against their former party members in the upcoming polls. A report by The New Indian Express quotes a MNF worker hinting that Lalzirliana and Sailo may contest state elections as MNF candidates.

    Dynastic Politics

    Dynastic politics is rampant in the state. With Thanhawla's concurrent reign, his younger brother Lal Thanzara, who is commonly called the 'de facto CM', is also contesting from Aizawl North-III for the third straight term, according to a report by The Hindu.

    Mizoram: BJP Dark Horse in Traditional Congress-MNF Battleground?
    (Photo: The Quint/Aroop Mishra)
    Mizoram: BJP Dark Horse in Traditional Congress-MNF Battleground?
    (Photo: The Quint/Aroop Mishra)

    The family ties don't end there. Urban Development and Sports Minister Zodintluanga, who is seeking his third straight term from Thorang, is the brother of Thanhawla's daughter-in-law.

    Vanlalampuii Chawngthu, who is also the second woman to become a minister in the state, is the daughter of C Chawngkunga, the general secretary of the Mizoram Pradesh Congress Committee, and is seeking re-election from the Hrangturzo seat, the report added.

    With various members of the family ruling the state under the same party banner, opposition parties and public alike have criticised how “letting family members grab all the opportunities is typical Congress culture.”
    Expand
  2. 2. What is the Bru Refugee Crisis?

    Over 30,000 people, belonging to a tribe named "Bru", had fled from Mizoram to North Tripura back in 1997, following an outbreak of ethnic clashes. According to an article by the Scroll, following the clashes, two Mizo organisations – the Young Mizo Association and Mizo Zirlai Pawl, or the Mizo Students’ Association – had apparently demanded the Brus to be left out of the state’s electoral rolls, since they were not an "indigenous" tribe of Mizoram.

    Responding to this, an armed outfit called the Bru National Liberation Front, and a political body called the Bru National Union, were formed. Both organisations wished for political autonomy for the tribe, and demanded a Bru Autonomous District Council.

    However, conflict struck in 1997, when some members of the Bru National Liberation Front allegedly shot down a Mizo forest guard at Mamit district's Dampa Tiger Reserve. Following this incident, the Brus found themselves facing a violent backlash by the Mizos, forcing them to flee the state to neighbouring Tripura.

    An attempt at repatriation was initiated in 2010, with some members of the tribe even moving back to Mizoram. In December 2017, the Mizoram government said it had recognised 32,857 people belonging to 5,413 Bru families for repatriation, and would resume the repatriation process. However, the process is yet to be carried out.

    The repatriation initiative may be a strategy by the BJP for the assembly elections, since most of the Brus are reportedly Hindus and could thus prove as a voter-base. 

    However, there's a dent in this theory, as the apex body of Bru refugees in Tripura recently appealed to the political parties in Mizoram to refrain from visiting the relief camps for poll campaigning, ahead of the 28 November elections. Still, political parties could approach the Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Forum (MBDPF) if they wished to carry out campaigns in the region.

    On Tuesday, 6 November, over 40,000 people held a rally in Aizawl, demanding Shashank’s removal.
    On Tuesday, 6 November, over 40,000 people held a rally in Aizawl, demanding Shashank’s removal.
    (Photo courtesy: Twitter/@BenThakerz)

    The spat over allowing the Bru refugees to be a part of the electoral process recently came into national focus, when on 1 November, Mizoram Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) SB Shashank complained against Principal Secretary (Home) Lalnunmawia Chuaungo over the “direct interference” of the state in the preparation for polls, and alleged that there was insensitivity regarding the voting rights of the Bru community.

    Shashank said: “His (Chuaungo’s) direct interference was found. If you see the EC order, you will find everything very clearly mentioned. He was interfering in revision of rolls (of the Bru) and causing hindrance in our work.”

    The CEO referred to the arrangements made to help the Bru refugees, who are staying in camps in Tripura, to take part in the elections.

    The tiff began in September 2018, when Shashank had reportedly issued a statement that allowed identification slips as valid documents that could be used by the Bru refugees. Two days later, Chuaungo issued another order asking refugees to not use the identification slips, except for the purpose of repatriation.

    Following this clash of opinions, however, public outrage turned against Shashank, with even the chief minister writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, demanding that the CEO be removed from the office.

    Expand
  3. 3. Who Are the Key Players?

    Although the BJP has managed to gain a stronghold in seven out of the eight states making up Northeast India, its presence isn’t as dynamic in Mizoram, where the ruling Congress party and the Mizo National Front (MNF) are the two main contenders.

    The Congress, under CM Lal Thanhawla, had also formed the first two governments, following which, in 1998, the MNF formed the government for two terms.

    Congress:

    The Congress party now at the end of its second term, is facing the dual problems of anti-incumbency and corruption charges. The outbreak of violence against the Bru community back in 1997, leading them to flee the state, also took place when the Congress was in power.

    The party also has to tackle the challenge of several of its ministers leaving and joining hands with the opposition. Despite these exits, the Congress still has about 30 members in the assembly, while MNF has six.

    However, those ministers who resigned from the Congress party to join the MNF, may be the ones standing as candidates in the polls, sources told The New Indian Express. In this case, the Congress candidates – most of whom are affiliated with the Thanhawla family in one way or another, would be up against their old compatriots.

    The party is planning to contest all 40 seats that are up for grabs. CM Thanhawla will contest from the Champhai South (ST) and Serchhip (ST) seats – both reserved for the SC/ST category.

    Mizo National Front (MNF):

    The Mizo National Front (MNF) was formed initially as a famine relief NGO – called the Mizo National Famine Front – during the mautam of 1959–1960. Growing disillusioned with the central government at the time, the organisation decided to secede from the Union of India as the MNF.

    Following the secession in 1986, MNF Chief Laldenga signed the ‘Mizo Accord’, which officially recognised MNF as a political party. Laldegna also became the first chief minister of the independent Mizoram, with Lal Thanhawla as the deputy. However, in 1989, the Congress, under Lal Thanhawla, formed the government.

    The MNF has ties to the BJP as well. Back in 1998, when MNF – under Zoramthanga – had won the first state elections, the party was a part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Parliament. However, the party has long since announced its intention of running for the upcoming elections – where it will contest all 40 seats – alone. Zoramthanga will contest from the Aizawl East-I assembly constituency, according to the list of candidates released by the party.

    BJP:

    The BJP doesn’t hold that much of a presence in Mizoram as the state's majority Christian population has repeatedly denied the ideology of the saffron party. As mentioned before, the BJP may be trying to help members of the Bru tribe return to the state – as they are predominantly Hindu – so that they can secure that particular vote bank, reports have suggested.

    The BJP is expected to contest 13 of the 40 assembly seats in the state, according to state unit President JV Hluna, who will be contesting from the Tawi assembly seat.

    The party is also attempting to focus its campaign strategy in the Chakma areas of the state, where most of the population is Buddhist.

    BJP released its list of candidates for the 2018 Mizoram polls. 
    BJP released its list of candidates for the 2018 Mizoram polls. 
    (Photo courtesy: Twitter/@NehaSin31702063)
    BJP released its list of candidates for the 2018 Mizoram polls. 
    BJP released its list of candidates for the 2018 Mizoram polls. 
    (Photo courtesy: Twitter/@NehaSin31702063)
    Expand
  4. 4. What are the Other Parties Contesting Polls?

    Other than the Congress, the Mizo National Front (MNF) and the BJP, there are two smaller parties that have also thrown their respective hats into the fray.

    Nationalist Congress Party (NCP):

    The Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) announced that it would be contesting five seats. According to NCP Mizoram state unit President Lalawmpuia Chhangte, these include Hachhek, Dampa, Mamit, Aizawl East-I and Aizawl West-I Assembly constituencies.

    Out of the five, their hopes are on Hachhek and Mamit seats, as NCP candidates had managed to score 2,467 votes and 2,368 votes in the respective constituencies in the 2013 assembly polls.

    Nationalist People’s Party (NPP):

    The Nationalist People’s Party under Conrad Sangma is part of the NDA in Parliament. It is aligned with the BJP as a junior partner in Manipur and Nagaland and as a senior partner in Meghalaya.

    The party has said that it will contest 25 seats, and announced that it will not partner with any other party. However, in all likelihood, it will probably tie-up with the BJP, given its past record.

    Expand
  5. 5. Voting Pattern

    In the 2008 elections in the state, the Congress won 32 out of the 40 seats with a 39 percent vote share, while the Mizo National Front (MNF) clinched only three seats with a 31 percent vote share, according to the Election Commission of India. The BJP too, had contested nine seats but didn’t win any seat, securing only 0.5 percent vote-share.

    In 2013, the Congress’ seat count and vote share both increased by 34 and 45 percent respectively, while the MNF won five seats, but saw its vote share decline to 29 percent. The BJP again had contested 17 seats, but did not secure even one. With that, the party’s vote share also declined to 0.4 percent.

    Going by these trends, the major battle in the upcoming November elections is expected to be between the Congress and the Mizoram National Front (MNF), while the BJP will be hoping for a better score this time around. The final result will be announced on 11 December.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

What Are the Issues Dominating Mizoram Politics?

Anti-Incumbency:

With the Congress ruling over Mizoram for over a decade under the leadership of Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, the party is facing anti-incumbency, according to multiple reports.

Several factors have led to anti-incumbency against the Congress in the state. Two issues stand out: the sorry state of infrastructure in Mizoram, and the lifting on the ban on alcohol.

Reports have claimed that the public are growing increasingly dissatisfied with the party as there has been no improvement of roads across the state. Speaking on behalf of the masses, the Minister of State for Road Transport and Highway Mansukh L Mandaviya had earlier blamed the Thanhawla-led Congress for the miserable conditions of the roads across the state. He had also accused the party of neglecting highway development, as well as not utilising the funds sanctioned by the Centre for the sole purpose of improving the condition of the roads in Mizoram.

On the other hand, as this report by The New Indian Express states, there has been a steady rise in alcohol-related deaths across the state, ever since the Congress-led state government lifted the ban that was imposed under the Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition and Control) Act in 2014. This has been a factor that has led a large part of the population to be unhappy with the state government’s decision.

But these two issues apart, agrarian discord has also been another factor that is working against the ruling party. Thousands of farmers took to the streets in protest, demanding land reforms and a newly regulated market system for the "sustainable development of farmers" on 28 September, PTI reported. Considering that farmers make up more than 70 percent of the Mizoram’s population (roughly 11 lakh), their agitation against the state government stands to affect the Congress in the upcoming polls.

File image of Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla. 
File image of Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla. 
(Photo courtesy: Facebook/@Lal Thanhawla)

Corruption Charges:

Thanhawla's reputation had taken a hit when he was accused of corruption by the Deputy Controller of Mines, Lalhriatrenga Chhangte, of "amassing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.”

In another alleged case of corruption, the Mizoram police had also filed a charge sheet against Thanhawla and two businessmen, when investigations revealed that more than Rs 5.25 crore were paid from various accounts of the Mumbai-based Eastern Overseas Corporation, which undertook two hydel project construction works in the state, to Oceanic Business Agency, a firm owned by a man named Lal Thanzaua.

Another Congress state leader, Lalrobiaka (Dampa), had come under the opposition's radar when his assets grew mysteriously by a whopping 2,406 percent in just five years, the report added.

Rift Within the Congress

Adding to the party's woes, there have been several instances of rifts within the Congress, with several party members reportedly leaving to join rivals. Since September, at least five sitting Congress MLAs have resigned from their posts.

These include R Lalzirliana, Lalrinliana Sailo, Buddha Dhan Chakma, Hmingdailova Khiangte and the latest exit – Speaker Hiphei, who resigned from the party and the House to join the BJP on 5 November. While Lalzirliana and Sailo have now joined opposition MNF, and Chakma the arch nemesis BJP, Khiangte has announced that he would contest the polls as an independent candidate.

One of the main problems that the departing state Congress leaders seemed to have with Thanhawla, was that as the only Congress chief minister who is also heading a state party unit, he is known to act “independently and in an autocratic manner,” the report added.

The exit of these Congress leaders poses a threat to the Thanhawla-led government, as they may stand against their former party members in the upcoming polls. A report by The New Indian Express quotes a MNF worker hinting that Lalzirliana and Sailo may contest state elections as MNF candidates.

Dynastic Politics

Dynastic politics is rampant in the state. With Thanhawla's concurrent reign, his younger brother Lal Thanzara, who is commonly called the 'de facto CM', is also contesting from Aizawl North-III for the third straight term, according to a report by The Hindu.

Mizoram: BJP Dark Horse in Traditional Congress-MNF Battleground?
(Photo: The Quint/Aroop Mishra)
Mizoram: BJP Dark Horse in Traditional Congress-MNF Battleground?
(Photo: The Quint/Aroop Mishra)

The family ties don't end there. Urban Development and Sports Minister Zodintluanga, who is seeking his third straight term from Thorang, is the brother of Thanhawla's daughter-in-law.

Vanlalampuii Chawngthu, who is also the second woman to become a minister in the state, is the daughter of C Chawngkunga, the general secretary of the Mizoram Pradesh Congress Committee, and is seeking re-election from the Hrangturzo seat, the report added.

With various members of the family ruling the state under the same party banner, opposition parties and public alike have criticised how “letting family members grab all the opportunities is typical Congress culture.”
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What is the Bru Refugee Crisis?

Over 30,000 people, belonging to a tribe named "Bru", had fled from Mizoram to North Tripura back in 1997, following an outbreak of ethnic clashes. According to an article by the Scroll, following the clashes, two Mizo organisations – the Young Mizo Association and Mizo Zirlai Pawl, or the Mizo Students’ Association – had apparently demanded the Brus to be left out of the state’s electoral rolls, since they were not an "indigenous" tribe of Mizoram.

Responding to this, an armed outfit called the Bru National Liberation Front, and a political body called the Bru National Union, were formed. Both organisations wished for political autonomy for the tribe, and demanded a Bru Autonomous District Council.

However, conflict struck in 1997, when some members of the Bru National Liberation Front allegedly shot down a Mizo forest guard at Mamit district's Dampa Tiger Reserve. Following this incident, the Brus found themselves facing a violent backlash by the Mizos, forcing them to flee the state to neighbouring Tripura.

An attempt at repatriation was initiated in 2010, with some members of the tribe even moving back to Mizoram. In December 2017, the Mizoram government said it had recognised 32,857 people belonging to 5,413 Bru families for repatriation, and would resume the repatriation process. However, the process is yet to be carried out.

The repatriation initiative may be a strategy by the BJP for the assembly elections, since most of the Brus are reportedly Hindus and could thus prove as a voter-base. 

However, there's a dent in this theory, as the apex body of Bru refugees in Tripura recently appealed to the political parties in Mizoram to refrain from visiting the relief camps for poll campaigning, ahead of the 28 November elections. Still, political parties could approach the Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Forum (MBDPF) if they wished to carry out campaigns in the region.

On Tuesday, 6 November, over 40,000 people held a rally in Aizawl, demanding Shashank’s removal.
On Tuesday, 6 November, over 40,000 people held a rally in Aizawl, demanding Shashank’s removal.
(Photo courtesy: Twitter/@BenThakerz)

The spat over allowing the Bru refugees to be a part of the electoral process recently came into national focus, when on 1 November, Mizoram Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) SB Shashank complained against Principal Secretary (Home) Lalnunmawia Chuaungo over the “direct interference” of the state in the preparation for polls, and alleged that there was insensitivity regarding the voting rights of the Bru community.

Shashank said: “His (Chuaungo’s) direct interference was found. If you see the EC order, you will find everything very clearly mentioned. He was interfering in revision of rolls (of the Bru) and causing hindrance in our work.”

The CEO referred to the arrangements made to help the Bru refugees, who are staying in camps in Tripura, to take part in the elections.

The tiff began in September 2018, when Shashank had reportedly issued a statement that allowed identification slips as valid documents that could be used by the Bru refugees. Two days later, Chuaungo issued another order asking refugees to not use the identification slips, except for the purpose of repatriation.

Following this clash of opinions, however, public outrage turned against Shashank, with even the chief minister writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, demanding that the CEO be removed from the office.

Who Are the Key Players?

Although the BJP has managed to gain a stronghold in seven out of the eight states making up Northeast India, its presence isn’t as dynamic in Mizoram, where the ruling Congress party and the Mizo National Front (MNF) are the two main contenders.

The Congress, under CM Lal Thanhawla, had also formed the first two governments, following which, in 1998, the MNF formed the government for two terms.

Congress:

The Congress party now at the end of its second term, is facing the dual problems of anti-incumbency and corruption charges. The outbreak of violence against the Bru community back in 1997, leading them to flee the state, also took place when the Congress was in power.

The party also has to tackle the challenge of several of its ministers leaving and joining hands with the opposition. Despite these exits, the Congress still has about 30 members in the assembly, while MNF has six.

However, those ministers who resigned from the Congress party to join the MNF, may be the ones standing as candidates in the polls, sources told The New Indian Express. In this case, the Congress candidates – most of whom are affiliated with the Thanhawla family in one way or another, would be up against their old compatriots.

The party is planning to contest all 40 seats that are up for grabs. CM Thanhawla will contest from the Champhai South (ST) and Serchhip (ST) seats – both reserved for the SC/ST category.

Mizo National Front (MNF):

The Mizo National Front (MNF) was formed initially as a famine relief NGO – called the Mizo National Famine Front – during the mautam of 1959–1960. Growing disillusioned with the central government at the time, the organisation decided to secede from the Union of India as the MNF.

Following the secession in 1986, MNF Chief Laldenga signed the ‘Mizo Accord’, which officially recognised MNF as a political party. Laldegna also became the first chief minister of the independent Mizoram, with Lal Thanhawla as the deputy. However, in 1989, the Congress, under Lal Thanhawla, formed the government.

The MNF has ties to the BJP as well. Back in 1998, when MNF – under Zoramthanga – had won the first state elections, the party was a part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Parliament. However, the party has long since announced its intention of running for the upcoming elections – where it will contest all 40 seats – alone. Zoramthanga will contest from the Aizawl East-I assembly constituency, according to the list of candidates released by the party.

BJP:

The BJP doesn’t hold that much of a presence in Mizoram as the state's majority Christian population has repeatedly denied the ideology of the saffron party. As mentioned before, the BJP may be trying to help members of the Bru tribe return to the state – as they are predominantly Hindu – so that they can secure that particular vote bank, reports have suggested.

The BJP is expected to contest 13 of the 40 assembly seats in the state, according to state unit President JV Hluna, who will be contesting from the Tawi assembly seat.

The party is also attempting to focus its campaign strategy in the Chakma areas of the state, where most of the population is Buddhist.

BJP released its list of candidates for the 2018 Mizoram polls. 
BJP released its list of candidates for the 2018 Mizoram polls. 
(Photo courtesy: Twitter/@NehaSin31702063)
BJP released its list of candidates for the 2018 Mizoram polls. 
BJP released its list of candidates for the 2018 Mizoram polls. 
(Photo courtesy: Twitter/@NehaSin31702063)
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What are the Other Parties Contesting Polls?

Other than the Congress, the Mizo National Front (MNF) and the BJP, there are two smaller parties that have also thrown their respective hats into the fray.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP):

The Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) announced that it would be contesting five seats. According to NCP Mizoram state unit President Lalawmpuia Chhangte, these include Hachhek, Dampa, Mamit, Aizawl East-I and Aizawl West-I Assembly constituencies.

Out of the five, their hopes are on Hachhek and Mamit seats, as NCP candidates had managed to score 2,467 votes and 2,368 votes in the respective constituencies in the 2013 assembly polls.

Nationalist People’s Party (NPP):

The Nationalist People’s Party under Conrad Sangma is part of the NDA in Parliament. It is aligned with the BJP as a junior partner in Manipur and Nagaland and as a senior partner in Meghalaya.

The party has said that it will contest 25 seats, and announced that it will not partner with any other party. However, in all likelihood, it will probably tie-up with the BJP, given its past record.

Who is the BJP’s Rumoured Ally?

With the BJP failing to gain a stronghold in Mizoram by its own footing, its best hope is to ally with one of the main contenders – the Congress or the Mizo National Front (MNF) – for the upcoming polls, so that it can try and contest for more of the 40 available seats.

It’s important to note here that both Congress and MNF, have been determined to present the BJP as an “anti-Christian” party to the people of Mizoram, which is a predominantly Christian state.

While the ruling Congress and main opposition MNF are trying hard to prove their 'anti-BJP' credentials, they both have, however, had their own alliances with the saffron party, PTI reported.

Both parties, Congress and the MNF, as part of their latest electoral strategy, 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, PTI reported. 

Congress Accuses MNF of “Secret Alliance” With BJP

The Congress has accused the MNF, which in 2003 was a part of the BJP-led NDA, of holding secret talks with the the latter, regarding an alliance in the state.

To this end, the Congress published 50,000 copies of a leaflet in Mizo language depicting the relationship between the BJP and the MNF, while putting on 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 senior BJP leaders, PTI reported.

The MNF, however, denied these tie-up “rumours” and declared that it would contest the upcoming polls, alone.

A Congress leader told PTI that people of Mizoram were 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 selection of candidates," he alleged, according to the news agency.

MNF Accuses Congress of Allying With BJP After CADC

Election to the 20-member CADC on 20 April 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, PTI reported.

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.

MNF leader Robert Romawia Royte told PTI that he was planning on exposing this alliance in a “big way”, but before he even could, the Congress itself admitted it by saying they were breaking the alliance.

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Voting Pattern

In the 2008 elections in the state, the Congress won 32 out of the 40 seats with a 39 percent vote share, while the Mizo National Front (MNF) clinched only three seats with a 31 percent vote share, according to the Election Commission of India. The BJP too, had contested nine seats but didn’t win any seat, securing only 0.5 percent vote-share.

In 2013, the Congress’ seat count and vote share both increased by 34 and 45 percent respectively, while the MNF won five seats, but saw its vote share decline to 29 percent. The BJP again had contested 17 seats, but did not secure even one. With that, the party’s vote share also declined to 0.4 percent.

Going by these trends, the major battle in the upcoming November elections is expected to be between the Congress and the Mizoram National Front (MNF), while the BJP will be hoping for a better score this time around. The final result will be announced on 11 December.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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