‘The AAP of Mizoram’: How a new party won a landslide majority in Mizoram

The Zoram People’s Movement won 27 out of 40 seats in the Mizoram assembly elections.

WrittenBy:Tanishka Sodhi
ZPM’s Lalduhoma and MNF’s Zoramthanga.
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In the hills and valleys of Mizoram, voters are hungry for change. They want development. They want better roads. They want job opportunities. They want to stand shoulder to shoulder with their Northeast sisters – and this election, they voted for exactly that.

On November 7, over eight lakh people in Mizoram cast their votes in favour of a new party on the block, the Zoram People’s Movement. In results announced today, the ZPM got a sweeping majority, winning 27 out of 40 seats in the first ever formal election it’s contesting. 

The incumbent Mizo National Front trailed behind with 10 seats. The BJP, which marked its entry into Mizoram in the last election with a single seat, has now progressed to two while the Congress – for whom Mizoram was a stronghold not too long ago – won just one.

The ZPM gathered 37.86 percent of the votes. The MNF got a vote share of 35.1 percent, the Congress 20.82 percent, and the BJP 5.06 percent. Out of the 40 winning candidates, three are women – a record in Mizoram which has only seen four women MLAs until now.

What makes the governing MNF’s defeat even more sour is that Chief Minister Zoramthanga lost from Aizawl East-I to a ZPM candidate. 

“We were able to build a brand. There are a lot of first- and second-time voters who felt proud to be associated with us; I think that was our winning point,” Lalbiadkiki Hnamte, a ZPM leader and a professor in the department of education at Mizoram University, told Newslaundry. “People are looking for change after MNF and Congress and our slogan itself was that we are a new system for the people.”

The fall of MNF, rise of ZPM

Since Mizoram achieved statehood in 1987, elections have been two-cornered battles between the Congress and the MNF. Until this year, when the ZPM took over the space formed by the other two parties’ dismal records and unkept promises. 

The ZPM is explained to laypersons as the “AAP of Mizoram”, and with good reason. It was formed in 2018 as a coalition of six regional parties. Eight of its candidates won seats in the elections that year but the Election Commission formally registered the party only in 2019.

This year, anti-incumbency in the state worked against the MNF, which has been in power for the last five years, and also the Congress, which was in power before that.

The ZPM’s chief ministerial candidate is a familiar face. Lalduhoma, 74, is a former IPS officer who was in charge of Indira Gandhi’s security in 1982 before he quit the service and joined the Congress. He won a Lok Sabha ticket but holds the dubious record of being the first MP to be disqualified under the anti-defection law in November 1988.

The MNF government’s term was stained by accusations of corruption and nepotism. Three-time CM Zoramthanga hoped to cash in on Zo sentiments after he welcomed refugees from neighbouring Manipur and Myanmar, standing with the Kukis in Manipur and protesting crimes against them. He also defied the central government’s orders – the BJP is the MNF’s NDA ally – to collect biodata of incoming refugees.

But political analysts long concluded that it would be tough for the MNF to capitalise on this, since all Mizoram’s political parties expressed similar sentiments and stood by the Mizos’ ethnic sisters.

“MNF’s candidates are very promising and highly educated, but people are not happy with Zoramthanga right now,” said David Lalrinchhana, a professor at Government Johnson College in Aizawl. “The promises he made to people were not met. If they reform the party, they have a chance in the next elections.”

He added that while ZPM getting the most number of seats was not surprising, the landslide numbers were.

“Mizoram is a very literate and educated state. ZPM has a research wing and everything they say is backed by research,” said David Lalrinchhana. “They make intellectual points and have promised not just change but reforms as well. And also, people can truly relate to their campaign speeches, such as Mizoram budget criticisms and policy debates, because the majority of us are educated and highly literate. The only danger right now is that they have promised so much, it should be delivered.”

Christina, a first-time voter and student at Mizoram University, told Newslaundry that development is “growing slowly” in Mizoram.

“People are great in the state but the system is not that great right now. The ZPM has a vision for Mizoram to grow into a more developed state,” she said. “We need a party like this, whose manifesto and leaders are much better than the previous parties.”

BJP’s progress, Congress’s decline

While the BJP won only two out of 40 seats, it’s still progress for the party in a Christian-majority state. The BJP had contested five unsuccessful elections before winning its first seat in 2018. It took many campaigns and deflections to turn that number into two. 

But the BJP’s campaign suffered when Zoramthanga said he wouldn’t share a stage with PM Modi as a consequence of the Manipur violence. Modi’s scheduled rally in Mizoram was abruptly cancelled a few days later, making it the only state where the PM did not campaign this election season.

As for the Congress, its stunning defeat is despite the fact that Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra passed through Mizoram in October, meeting with great excitement from party workers and the public at the time. Perhaps the party is still feeling the loss of Congress strongman and former CM Lal Thanhawla, who retired from active politics less than a year ago. 

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