Constituency Watch: Ruling ZPM new formidable political force in sole Mizoram LS seat

Aizawl, April 3 (IANS) Mizoram's ruling Zoram People's Movement (ZPM) has become the new formidable political force in the Christian-dominated state, where the Congress and the Mizo National Front (MNF) dominated electoral politics during the past four decades, and is now mounting a bid to win the state's lone Lok Sabha seat.

After the signing of the Peace Accord, Mizoram became a full-fledged state in 1986, and since then, most elections, Assembly or Parliamentary, were direct contests between the Congress and the MNF, a militant outfit-turned-political party, and they had alternatively governed India's second least-populated state (Sikkim) till 2023.

However, the ZPM, founded before the 2018 Assembly elections, came to power for the first time in the mountainous state in the November 7, 2023 polls, securing 27 seats in the 40-member Assembly. The MNF managed only 10 seats.

With the ZPM contesting its first parliamentary elections, a multi-party contest is on the cards for the Mizoram Lok Sabha seat, reserved for tribals, where polling will be held on April 19.

Though his party is a new player in the parliamentary elections, Chief Minister and ZPM President Lalduhoma was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1984 on a Congress ticket but later quit the party and was disqualified under the anti-defection law in 1988.

The ZPM has put up entrepreneur Richard Vanlalhmangaiha, a newcomer to politics, and he faces the MNF's sitting Rajya Sabha member K. Vanlalvena, the Congress nominee Lalbiakzama, a former police officer and state Home Secretary, the BJP's state President Vanlalhmuak, and People’s Conference candidate Rita Malsawmi, a Mizo singer and lyricist.

After MNF’s sitting Lok Sabha member C. Lalrosanga had expressed his reluctance to contest again, the party fielded Vanlalvena.

In 2019, Lalrosanga emerged triumphant in a six-cornered contest, securing around 45 per cent votes defeating independent candidate Lalnghinglova Hmar, who managed little over 43 per cent votes.

The Congress won the state’s Lok Sabha seat for a record six times since the 1984 polls, including in 1989, 1991, 1996, 2009, and 2014, while independent candidates supported by various parties won it several times. The MNF had bagged it in 2004.

Highlighting corruption-free good governance and promising to protect the Mizo tradition and culture, the ZPM led by Lalduhoma, who was an IPS officer and served as a security officer of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for three years, became a strong political force in Mizoram.

In its first Assembly elections in 2018, it secured eight seats.

Though the MNF is a constituent of the NDA’s northeast chapter, the Northeast Democratic Alliance (NEDA) led by Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, Lalduhoma, already announced that his party would maintain equidistance from the BJP-led NDA and the Congress-led INDIA bloc.

"The ZPM distinguishes itself by its autonomy and liberty from political influences in the national capital. However, we would maintain positive relations with the Central government, and whoever is in the governance, and we are firm in opposing any measures that threaten Mizo culture and religious heritage. The ZPM remains steadfast as a regional party dedicated to the interests of Mizoram," he said.

Meanwhile, the relations between the BJP and its NEDA partner MNF sharply deteriorated after the National Democratic Alliance mooted the Uniform Civil Code as well as the ethnic violence in Manipur which erupted in May last year. The MNF government, led by Chief Minister Zoramthanga, had accused both the Central and the state governments of "failure to protect the Kuki-Zo-Chin tribals in Manipur".

Around 13,000 Kuki-Zo-Chin tribals, including women and children sheltered in Mizoram after being displaced from Manipur, where the ethnic riots broke out on May 3, 2023. Hundreds of non-tribal Meitei community people, living in Mizoram for years, also left the state and returned to Manipur.

The ethnic strife between the non-tribal Meitei and tribal Kuki communities in Manipur has become a key issue in the Mizoram polls.

Meanwhile, the BJP, which increased its seat tally from one to two in the 2023 polls, is confident of getting support with state chief and nominee Vanlalhmuaka saying that several organisations, NGOs, and civil society bodies are supporting his party. Talking to IANS, he claimed that many prominent individuals wish that the BJP had a Lok Sabha member from the state for its all-round development and the welfare of the people.

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at [email protected])

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