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Mizoram Exit Polls: MNF May Have an Edge but Numbers Don't Show the Full Picture

Since 1989, the northeastern state has been witnessing a unique tradition of the incumbent changing after two terms.

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Of the five election states, the least discussed one, unfortunately, is obviously the northeastern state of Mizoram, which voted in a single phase on 7 November.

The election has been depicted as a triangular fight between the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF) of Chief Minister Zoramthanga, the main Opposition party that is the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) led by Lalduhoma, and the Congress party.

These three parties contested all the 40 assembly constituencies. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was also present but as a side player, contesting only 23 seats.

The exit polls show that the MNF is likely to come back to power. But they don’t reveal everything. Here's why.
Since 1989, the northeastern state has been witnessing a unique tradition of the incumbent changing after two terms.
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MNF Has a Stable Vote Bank (25%)

Since 1989, the northeastern state has been witnessing a unique tradition of the incumbent government changing after two terms with power oscillating between the Congress party and the Mizo National Front (MNF).

Last election, most of the exit polls indicated an MNF victory, but this time they are divided. Interestingly, this time, while predicting a hung house in the northeastern state, most are giving an edge to the ruling MNF, despite it facing anti-incumbency as a result of its failure to properly implement its flagship welfare scheme, the Socio-Economic Development Policy (SEDP).

The two other crucial factors contributing to anti-incumbency against the ruling party are unemployment, and poor condition of roads and infrastructure.

So, taking into account these factors, the MNF, which won an absolute majority last time by securing 26 seats, is now struggling to get the majority mark of 21, according to the exit polls, and that is understandable.

However, the polls seem to suggest that anti-incumbency isn’t that big of a factor; that’s the reason most of these polls are showing the MNF as the single largest party. It seems that the situation of neighbouring Manipur, as expected, has come to the rescue the incumbent party with CM Zoramthanga himself attending a solidarity rally for the Kuki-Zomis of Manipur.

Importantly, the state government’s handling of the Kuki-Zomi refugees of Manipur, as well as the Chin-Kuki refugees of Myanmar and Bangladesh, seems to have cut the ice with the majority of the state's Mizo voters, who share an ethnic bond with the Chin-Kuki-Zomi refugees. The average vote percentages projected by the exit polls of the MNF seem to be around 30 percent.

The MNF, founded on the principles of Mizo nationalism, has a stable vote bank (around 25 percent) in the state. Even in the 2008 and 2013 state elections, when the MNF lost the polls and got 3 and 5 seats respectively, its vote share was still above 25 percent.

With MNF sharpening the issue of Mizo nationalism, taking the opportunity of the Manipur violence, it is expected that the ruling party is likely to secure a section of Mizo voters who are anguished with respect to the same.

Also, the MNF, as a result of its organisational strength, seems to have an edge in the rural areas. So, the exit polls seem to be somewhat accurate when it comes to projecting the vote share of the MNF.

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Most Exit Polls are Right in Predicting the Rise of ZPM

The exit poll done by Republic-P-Marg and Matrize seems to have underrepresented the ZPM.

The poll predicts that the ZPM is likely to get a vote percentage of 14.6 percent. This percentage is less than what it won in the last elections, where it grabbed more than 22 percent of votes. Since the last election, when it was just a two-year-old conglomerate of six parties, the ZPM, registered as a political party in 2019, has grown in the state including in the southern region, which has 12 seats.

This was confirmed by the clean sweep registered by the party in the Lunglei Municipal Council polls — consisting of four assembly seats — in April this year. In this region, the party failed to win any seat in the last Assembly election.

However, the exit polls don’t agree with each other on whether the ZPM would be able to cross the majority mark. The only exit poll that has predicted a clear picture is the India Today-Axis My India.

According to this poll, Lalduhoma’s ZPM is coming to power for the first time and the range of seats projected is between 28-35. True, the MNF has been facing anti-incumbency but ZPM is weak in rural areas — and this is likely to affect the prospects of the party in some seats.

Aware of this, the party has tried to woo the farmers and fought the elections focusing mostly on socio-economic issues. But to what extent has it penetrated the rural belt remains a question.

The ZPM is also likely to get support among the youth affected by unemployment and poor development. This gives an advantage to the party in the urban areas, where it is expected to do well. Although the ZPM may not get 30 seats or more as projected by Axis My India, it may achieve a simple majority or come close to it.

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Finally, Congress' Votes Seem to be Overrepresented

The exit polls seem to have overrepresented the Congress in terms of vote share and the number of seats. With the rise of the ZPM, the grand old party has lost its base in the urban areas of the state.

Although in the rural areas, it still has its base, there are chances that it has lost some of its votes there too as a result of the contest turning bipolar.

Not only this, the party has ceded some of its space in the ethnic minority areas to the BJP. Despite this, the road to success for the saffron party isn’t that easy. It is likely to struggle to get even two or three seats, as the MNF and the ZPM remain the main players.

The exit polls also didn’t project more than two seats for the saffron party, although it may be able to win three or four seats from the Mara-dominated and Chakma-dominated areas.

(Sagarneel Sinha is a political commentator. He tweets @SagarneelSinha. This is an opinion article and the views expressed are the authors' own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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Topics:  Mizoram   zoramthanga 

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