As Mizoram votes, can Cong hold its last fort?

As Mizoram votes, can Cong hold its last fort?

Congress President Rahul Gandhi obliges his supporters for selfies during an election rally in Champai, Mizoram. (PTI Photo)

A little over 7.68 lakh voters would exercise their franchise in Mizoram on Wednesday amid speculation is rife about two possibilities -- either the Congress will hold its last fort in the Northeast or the BJP will open its account in the Christian-majority state and be part of a coalition government led by the Opposition, the Mizo National Front (MNF).

"All preparations are in place and we expect a very high turnout in a peaceful atmosphere," Chief Electoral Officer Ashish Kundra told DH from Aizawl, the state capital. A total of 1,164 polling stations have been set up for 7,68,181 voters, of which nearly 55 per cent are women.

In the 2013 Assembly elections, Mizoram had witnessed a record 83.41 per cent polling, which was at 74 per cent in 2008.

Since Mizoram became a state in 1987, elections have always been a straight battle between the Congress and the MNF, the party that came into being in 1986 after the 20-year violent 'Mizo uprising.' 

But the Assembly elections this time have been slightly different. The BJP, which has set its sights on making the Northeast 'Congress-mukt' by wresting power from the Lal Thanhawla-led government, is contesting in 39 of the 40 seats. This has led the Congress to charge that the BJP and the MNF are in 'a secret understanding' for a coalition government like it did in the Christian-majority Meghalaya and Nagaland earlier this year. The ruling party alleged that the MNF is keeping it secret as the 'Hindu BJP' is not accepted in Christian Mizoram and the party could harm the MNF's prospects for being a Mizo regional party.

"That situation will not arise. We will get the absolute majority," Lallianchhunga, spokesperson of the Mizoram Pradesh Congress Committee said on Tuesday.

The Congress at present has 34 seats while the MNF has four. 

The Congress election campaign has highlighted its development initiatives in the past 10 years, particularly the new land use policy. But the MNF and the BJP have alleged that only the Congress workers have received benefits under the scheme and the funds released by the NDA government at the Centre were not utilised. The Congress said the MNF was 'giving the key' to the BJP and the RSS in Mizoram to impose their ideology in a state with 97 per cent Christians.

MNF chief and former two-time chief minister Zoramthanga, in an interview with DH on Nov. 24, claimed that 'change in Mizoram' means the MNF, not the BJP and that the saffron party would get zero seats. 

MNF spokesperson Lalthanzuala said that they expect a comfortable majority by winning between 23 to 30 seats.

The Zoram People's Movement, a collection of at least six small parties led by Lalduhoma, former security in-charge of Indira Gandhi; the People's Representation for Identity and Status in Mizoram, a whistleblowers' party; and the National People's Party led by Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma could divide votes and lead to balancing acts.

The focus, however, will remain on the 12,014 voters belonging to minority Bru refugees, who would travel 65 to 75 km from their relief camps in neighbouring Tripura to Kanhmun village in Mizoram's Mamit district to cast their votes on Wednesday. Over 32,000 Brus (Buddhists) had fled their homes in Mizoram in 1997 following an ethnic clash and have been languishing in relief camps in Tripura ever since.