Whether the Manipur unrest would make an impact in the ensuing Mizoram assembly elections would be known after the declaration of results. But, tongues will start wagging after November 7 after polling hours. The writing on the wall is that Mizoram is heading for a straight fight between the ruling National Front (MNF) led by Chief Minister Zoramthanga and Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) although some mainstream media is a three-cornered fight which includes the Congress. Mizoram traditionally had a two-party system since it gained statehood in 1987, with the Congress and the MNF as the two parties.
Congress seems to have lost its charm from the last elections as it could get only five seats in the 40-member assembly. Whether Rahul Gandhi’s recent visit to the state would have an impact or not is still uncertain. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi had cancelled his visit, the reasons for which could be varied. While some say the announcement by Mizoram CM Zoramthanga that he will not share the stage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he comes to campaign in the state could be a factor, it is not that simple considering how Narendra Modi’s mind works.
The BJP, which contested in 39 seats in the 2018 polls and won one, has nominated 23 candidates this time. It is said, the BJP is eyeing the votes of linguistic minorities such as Chakma, Bru, Mara and Lai community people living in the southern part of the state. A shrewd assessment by election pundits is that Narendra Modi would never show his face in places where the party’s prospects are dim. Even if the neighbouring state Manipur is simmering, if there are prospects he would not hesitate to campaign in the state. Zoramthanga boycotting him would not be a factor. Zoramthanga’s MNF is a part of the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) and an ally of the NDA at the Centre.
The main opposition party Zoram Peoples Movement (ZPM) has replaced the Congress as the principal opposition in the last assembly elections while the MNF is seeking a second term. In the 2018 assembly polls, Mizo National Front (MNF) got a majority by winning 26 seats, while the Congress managed to get five seats. The ZPM candidates contested as independents and got six seats. Interestingly, the ideology of both MNF and ZPM is Mizo nationalism.
While MNF seems to remain stuck in ethnic nationalism, ZPM is promising change and economic initiatives. And, the Manipur imbroglio is not having a space in the election discourse as desired by certain vested interests here in Manipur except for some kind of moral support. If at all MNF gets a majority and forms the government once again, it might still continue the moral support. However, nothing more is expected as the patience of Mizos of Mizoram might wear thin. Talks of Zo brotherhood would ultimately boil down to sharing of space and resources with those coming from outside the state. For how long they are going to support more than 13,000 people from Manipur who are taking shelter there after the violence in May.
It must be quite burdensome to them. The Kukis began trickling in after violence broke out in Manipur on May 3, adding to some 40,000 ethnically-related people displaced from Myanmar and Bangladesh since February 2021. One must also understand that inter-community relations in Mizoram are not that rosy and Zo identity is still in the making. This is also due to the resistance to the process of “Mizoisation” by smaller cognate tribes like the Paites and Hmars who also live across the border in Manipur’s Churachandpur district.
The assertion by Hmars for establishing an autonomous region in Mizoram is very much alive. The friction between minority political aspirations and the state government continues till today.