Mizoram: MNF’s Liquor Ban Promise & Church Defeated Congress
The 2018 Mizoram Legislative Assembly Elections saw a clear-cut majority of 26 seats won by the Mizo National Front (MNF) Party. The landslide victory of the MNF was slightly unprecedented as news reports were bracing for a hung parliament in Mizoram with the two major parties – INC and MNF, running close to each other but neither managing a clear majority.
Pu Lalthanhawla-led Congress party was ousted, as they secured 5 seats out of the total 40 seats. Zoram People’s Movement, a rising alliance that ran as Independent, gained seats in 8 constituencies. The BJP, which has been struggling to maintain a strong foothold in Mizoram, predictably failed to impress, winning just one seat.
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Church is Supreme, So is Alcohol
The Congress is widely believed to have lost due to the loss of its major support base-the Christian voters. In a majority Christian state, political parties vie for the support of the Church and its members. Without a clear indication of the party’s respect and support of the Church’s belief through their policies, most voters, who are Church members, began to question the authority of the governing party.
This loss has been spurred by the Congress government’s effort in repealing the ban on alcohol sale and consumption in Mizoram state. The Mizoram Liquor Prohibition and Control Act 2014 came into force on January 15th, 2015 under the Congress rule. The MNF party may have heavily benefited from asserting an aggressive stance against the sale and consumption of liquor in the State, promising a total prohibition of liquor – a stance that falls in line with the Church and its members.
Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM), an electoral alliance of seven parties, running on independent tickets has garnered a lot of support, especially through online channels, from young voters and Church members. The various church bodies align themselves with ZPM based on their similar stance on liquor ban with that of the MNF.
No Coalition With BJP, Only Alliance
Acutely aware of where the party stands in Mizoram, the BJP had formed an alliance with Mizoram Congress in the Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC). But due to Lalthanhawla’s concern for the 2018 Assembly elections as the anti-BJP sentiment grew among voters, the Mizoram Congress Party had cut its ties with the BJP in the CADC before the November elections.
Himanta Biswa Sarma, the NEDA convenor and the BJP leader from Assam had assisted the MNF in the selection of candidates for certain constituencies. The BJP’s consolidation in the Northeast through its regional alliance with MNF could be taken as a clear indication that the Mizo National Front will be supporting the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.
Amidst the ongoing celebrations of their rise to power, Zoramthanga clarified on 11th December that his party will not be forming a coalition government but that MNF still pledges an alliance with BJP-led NDA. He believes that the BJP is fit and better suited for the development of the country.
Mizoram now joins its sister states in being led by a party in alliance with BJP-led NDA. During the 2014 elections, the BJP has promised to pay special attention to the Northeastern region in election manifesto. This means that the BJP government do not have any excuses left to not fulfill its promise to transform the infrastructure in the Northeastern states and increase connectivity with the South-East Asian nations through its Act East policy.
BJP In Centre Must Deliver Or Perish
One of the three pre-poll promises of MNF was to heavily invest in the development of infrastructure in the state. Mizoram, despite being one of the fastest growing states in India with a high literacy rate, is still visibly behind in terms of infrastructure development as compared to other states in the country. Zoramthanga also promised innovative policy solutions to address the horrible traffic issues in urban areas.
Lalthanhawla’s Congress government had made frequent remarks on how the Centre refused to pay heed to official requests and outreach from the Mizoram state governments on various issues concerning economic and infrastructure development in the State. This was believed to be a blunt attempt by the Central government to affect the 2018 election outcome in the only state in the Northeast where their rival party holds majority. Attempts like these have contributed to the increased disdain towards the BJP’s politics by the Mizo majority.
The general Mizo population have been vocal about their strong disagreement on the issue of ban on the sale, procurement, and consumption of beef. In fact, Home Minister Rajnath Singh was met with a Beef festival in Aizawl during his trip to review security along the Indo-Myanmar border in 2017.
The demonstrators wanted the Union minister to witness, firsthand, that they will not stand the government’s regulation on their food habits which have immense cultural importance to them. It is no surprise that the BJP won a mere 1 seat in the current Assembly Elections.
(The author is a New Delhi -based public policy consultant. She tweets at @Vida_Zoi. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)