In the run-up to the crucial election to the 40-member assembly in Mizoram, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is making a bold move to expand its presence in the Christian majority state.
However, the party is facing several challenges, including strained relations with its ally, the Mizo National Front (MNF).
The BJP’s handling of the ethnic violence in neighboring Manipur has further added to the tension between the allies.
Mizoram: A Christian Majority State
With nearly 87 percent of Mizoram’s population being Christian, the state presents a unique challenge for the BJP, a party that draws significant support from Hindu voters.
The Christian population in Mizoram shares a common ethnic heritage with the Kuki-Zo tribes of Manipur, who are currently in conflict with the Meiteis.
Thousands of tribals displaced from Manipur have sought refuge in Mizoram.
Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga, from the MNF, has been critical of the BJP’s handling of the Manipur crisis.
He has even refused to share the stage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at campaign rallies in the state, leading to unprecedented cancellations.
Zoramthanga has repeatedly hit out at the BJP, stating that the tribal population in Mizoram feels more secure under the MNF.
In response, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju, who is in charge of Mizoram polls for the BJP, has defended the party’s position.
He has claimed that BJP’s Christian MLAs feel more secure under the party and accused the MNF of raising emotional and religious issues to divert attention from their lack of credible criticism against the BJP.
BJP’s Northeast Push
Since Prime Minister Modi came to power in 2014, the BJP has been making rapid progress in the northeast, once considered a stronghold of the Congress party.
Their first major victory came in 2016 when they won the state of Assam. Today, the BJP and its NDA allies govern the region. However, the situation in Mizoram highlights the discomfort within the alliance.
BJP Chief JP Nadda has strongly criticized the MNF-led government, promising to set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe corruption if the BJP comes to power in the state.
With the Congress losing strength in Mizoram, the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM), a regional party that won seven seats in the last election, is striving to capitalize on the discontent and targeting the BJP over the Manipur issue.
The Ethnic Vote Bank
The BJP is eyeing the minority ethnic groups in Mizoram and focusing its efforts on three seats in the Mamit district, which have a significant number of voters from the Bru and Chakma communities.
These minority groups hold potential as a crucial vote bank for the BJP in the state.
As the crucial election in Mizoram approaches, the BJP is determined to break the political barriers and expand its footprint in the Christian majority state.
However, the party must navigate through the challenges of strained alliances and address the concerns of the tribal population affected by the ethnic violence in Manipur.
Winning over the minority ethnic groups could prove to be a significant factor in the BJP’s success.
Only time will tell if the party can crack the Mizoram code and emerge victorious in the upcoming assembly election.