The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on 18 October announced the names of 21 candidates for the 7 November elections to the 40-member Mizoram Assembly. The list, released in two instalments, names three leaders who quit the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF), including former Assembly Speaker Lalrinliana Sailo, over the past few months. The other two are former Minister K Beichhua and former MNF advisor T Lalenthanga. They are contesting from the Mamit, Saiha, and West Tuipui constituencies respectively. Speaker Sailo resigned from his post after his party denied him a ticket to contest the coming state assembly election. He has pointed to the state’s financial dependence on the Centre as a factor that influenced his decision to join the BJP. He also expressed hope that a development agenda would help the party tide over any difficulties in the Christian-majority state.
“No single party will be able to form the government, and without BJP MLAs, no party will form the government. So people, especially the youth, want and expect a developmental process. Without the support and help of the central government, we don’t have the funds or the financial condition for that. That’s why the youth are realising that the BJP has done a lot for the country. So, we have high hopes for the BJP in Mizoram,” Sailo said on Sunday.
The BJP has fielded four women, twice as many as the MNF and its regional challenger, the Zoram People’s Movement. They include R Lalbiaktluangi, contesting from Lunglei West, Judy Zohmingliani (Tuivawl seat), F Lalremsangi (Aizawl South-I), and K. Vanlalruati (Serchhip). Lalremsangi is the spokesperson of the party’s Mizoram state unit. The candidates’ names were approved by the BJP’s central election committee, which includes Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and party chief JP Nadda.
The BJP, an ally of the MNF because of their common opponent, the Congress party, had contested 39 of the 40 seats in the Christian-majority Mizoram in 2018. The party managed to win only a single seat—Tuichawng, dominated by the Buddhist Chakma community. State BJP leaders, however, chose to focus on the positives; the party’s vote share in the elections five years ago was 8.09%, which was almost eight times more than the 0.37% garnered in the 2013 election. Thirty-three of the 39 BJP candidates forfeited their deposits in 2018, an improvement over the fate of all its 17 candidates in 2013.
On the other hand, Congress has already announced its candidates for all 40 seats in Mizoram Assembly elections. In the first list of 39 candidates that was announced by the party on Monday, Congress fielded Lalsanglura Ralte from the Aizwal East-I constituency, currently held by Mizo National Front (MNF) president and Chief Minister Zoramthanga. While Mizoram Congress Committee Chief Lalsawta has been fielded from Aizawl West-III (ST), Lalnunmawia Chuaungo has been given the party ticket from Aizawl North-I (ST). Moreover, Lalrindika Ralte will contest from Hachhek (ST), Lalhmingthanga Sailo from Dampa (ST) and Lalrinmawia from Aizawl North-II. Later, the Congress announced that Meriam L Hrangchal from the Lunglei South constituency for the elections in the northeastern state.
In the 40-member assembly, the MNF bagged 26 seats with a vote share of 37.% to emerge victorious in the 2018 polls. Congress, meanwhile, secured five seats. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday also expressed confidence about the party’s victory in the Mizoram assembly polls. While addressing a press conference, Gandhi had said, “Both the parties ZPM (Zoram People’s Movement) and MNF (Mizo National Front) are instruments for BJP and RSS to enter the state (Mizoram). Congress party can never be an instrument to enter (state) because we are ideologically completely against the BJP.”
Earlier on 17 October, Congress released its manifesto for the upcoming assembly polls in Mizoram by making a slew of promises which included the reintroduction of the old pension scheme, LPG cylinders at Rs. 750 for poor households and a health insurance cover of Rs. 15 lakh per family for cashless treatment at hospitals. If voted to power, the party also promised to establish an efficient, transparent and corruption-free government and said that it would strengthen grassroots democracy by giving more power, responsibilities and financial resources to the village councils and local bodies.
LISTS OF ALL FOUR MAJOR PARTIES NOW OUT
With the BJP releasing two sets of candidate lists on Wednesday, all four major parties in Mizoram, including the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF), the opposition Congress and the Zoram Peoples’ Movement (ZPM), have now declared their candidates.
All four major parties in the state– MNF, Zoram People’s Movement, the BJP and the Congress are all fielding women candidates – a new trend for the state. In the 2018 polls, MNF had not fielded even one women candidate. Congress had fielded one, ZPM two and BJP six.
ZORAM PEOPLE’S MOVEMENT: SURPRISE CONTENDER?
On March 29, residents of the Lunglei municipal council voted in their first civic poll. Until recently, Mizoram had only one urban civic body, the Aizawl municipal council. The counting of votes of the maiden Lunglei civic polls threw up a result that left even the winners astonished.
The ruling MNF scored zero seats, the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM), a relatively new party took the polls by storm. ZPM was formed in 2017 as an alliance of three parties with the express aim of forming a non-Congress, non-MNF government in the state.
Later, three other parties – including the Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP), a former BJP ally joined the alliance. Together, they contested 36 assembly seats in 2018, getting considerable media attention in the run-up to voting for turning the polls into a three-corner contest. The alliance managed to win eight seats in those elections.
However, the Lunglei Municipal Council (LMC) poll results indicated rising anti-incumbency sentiment. The ZPM swept the LMC polls, winning all eleven wards. It won 49.31% of the votes. The MNF, which also contested all the seats, could get only 29.4% of the votes. The Congress, which also fielded candidates in all the wards, bagged 20% of the votes. Meanwhile, the BJP (contesting nine seats) secured 0.75% of the total votes.