Poll tracker: Beef to haunt BJP-backed MNF in Mizoram

The Mizo National Front will have to contend with the strong anti-BJP sentiments in Mizoram, while it is no secret that the BJP is intent on riding piggyback on the MNF in the Christian majority state

Poll tracker: Beef to haunt BJP-backed MNF in Mizoram

Ninglun Hanghal

Mizo National Front, ‘beefed’ by the BJP, claims to be confident of taking advantage of the anti-incumbency against the Congress government in office for the last two terms in Mizoram. But while it is an open secret that the BJP is intent on riding piggyback on the MNF in the Christian majority state, the MNF will still have to contend with the strong anti-BJP sentiments in the state, where the Church remains a powerful institution.

Beef is the staple food in Mizoram. And people still remember the massive ‘ beef party’ organised in protest to coincide with a visit of Home Minister Rajnath Singh. People last year attended the beef party to protest new rules restricting the sale of cattle for slaughter. Thousands of people gathered at the Vanapa hall, barely 200 meters from the Raj Bhavan, where Rajnath Singh presided over a high-level meeting to review security on the India-Myanmar border.

Even earlier, Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju was asked by the media at Aizawl if beef-eaters of the state would have to migrate to Pakistan. Taken aback, Rijiju had exclaimed that he himself was a beef-eater and that nobody could stop him from eating beef. But when Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi advised people affected by restrictions on the selling and serving of beef to migrate to a neighbouring country or to an Arab nation, Rijiju promptly retracted his statement and claimed that he had been misquoted in Aizawl.

What Rijiju claimed he had said was this: “When they asked me if they have to go to Pakistan for beef consumption, I said India is a secular country and food habits cannot be stopped but the Hindu faith and sentiment must be respected in Hindu majority states, same as other communities have rights in their own dominant states.” Beef therefore is likely to be one of the issues in the election.

Beef is staple in Mizoram and the BJP’s stance about consumption of the meat may prove to be a factor 

The BJP, which believes Mizoram to be the last frontier to be won in the North-East, is banking heavily on Chakmas, Buddhists who are still considered outsiders in Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. While Mizos consider Chakmas as refugees, they have been integrated in Tripura and also have an Autonomous Development Council. The BJP appears confident of winning the two Chakma majority constituencies where Chakmas have no option but to vote for the party.

MNF has also been in government for two terms and its leader Zoramthanga has been twice the Chief Minister of the state. With the tacit backing of the BJP, it hopes to do well.

The task of the Congress is cut out because the contest in almost all the 40 constituencies is likely to be multi-cornered. With the MNF, the BJP and the National People’s Party, led by Conrad Sangma from Meghalaya, also in the fray, the contests will be close and victory margins unpredictable. There are also other regional parties in the fray like the Zoram National Party and Mizo People’s Convention.

But the Indian National Congress had won 32 seats in 2008 and 34 seats in 2013 and is hardly a pushover. As in the other two ‘Christian’ majority states of Meghalaya and Nagaland, the BJP hopes to join a post-poll alliance after the election to form a government in Mizoram.

The legislative assembly election will be held on November 28, 2018.

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