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Mizoram polls: What are the hurdles for BJP and Congress in the northeastern state?

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    Aizawl, Nov 6: With barely four weeks to go for the November 28 assembly election, campaigning has entered the final phase. The ruling Congress has declared its candidates for all 40 seats, as has opposition MNF, while BJP chief Amit Shah recently kick-started his party's campaign.

    Mizoram polls: What are the hurdles for BJP and Congress in the northeastern state?

    Northeast has always been the Congress and regional parties basiton. However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) interrupted the status quo.

    Also Read Protesters picket Mizoram CEO's office demanding his removal

    Mizoram, may well be the final frontier for the Bharatiya Janata Party, which rules six of the eight north-eastern States either on its own or in alliance with regional parties that have been traditional rivals of the Congress.

    Here we take a look at a look at the key issues so far

    Anti-Christian tag

    BJP is fighting against a campaign whipped up by some elements that it is anti-Christian and voting for it will mean bringing Hindutva to the state.

    Prior to polls in Meghalaya, Congress had even launched a campaign saying if BJP comes to power, it will impose Hindutva on Christians. Despite contesting elections in Mizoram five times, things aren't going the saffron way in the northeastern state.

    Chakma issue

    Political parties in poll-bound Mizoram are likely to ignore a diktat by influential NGOs not to field Chakma candidates in the assembly elections although no political party has yet announced its candidates for the two Chakma dominated constituencies.

    In 2017, the Mizoram NGO coordination committee, the apex body comprising major NGOs, including the Central Young Mizo Association and Mizo Zirlai Pawl, which exercise enormous influence in Mizo society, asked political parties not to field any Chakma, most of whom are branded as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

    Prominent Chakma leader Buddha Dhan Chakma recently resigned from the Congress and joined the BJP. The Congress has fielded candidates from both these seats. Zoram People's Movement, an electoral alliance of seven parties, has announced that it will not field candidates in the two seats. Some NGOs are branding Chakmas as foreigners while Chakmas claim that they are sons of the soil. There are nearly 90,000 Chakmas staying in Mizoram.

    Two Congress leaders recently quit the party to join the MNF. Dr BD Chakma, former minister and a Chakma tribe leader, has recently quit the Congress to join the BJP. In a major blow to the ruling Congress in poll-bound Mizoram, senior leader and legislative assembly Speaker Hiphei resigned and joined the BJP.

    Alcohol, a poll issue

    Liquor liquor drinkers will go dry if a conglomerate of seven political parties, which have forged a pre-poll alliance, grabs power.

    The MLPC Act, implemented on January 16, 2015, replaced the Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition (MLTP) Act of 1995 that was enforced two years later. The church more than 87% people of the State are Christians had played a major role in banning sale of liquor under the MLTP Act.

    Small parties to be main hurdle

    Mizoram is the only State in the north-east where the Congress is in power. But for the grand old party, which is eyeing a third successive term, the hurdle in retaining its last bastion in the north-east lies not only in checking its long-time rival, the Mizo National Front (MNF), but also the two alliances of smaller regional parties.

    The MNF is a member of the BJP-helmed North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), as is the National People's Party that plans to make a foray into Mizoram after heading the government in Meghalaya and becoming a minor ally of the BJP in Manipur and Nagaland.

    Poll Dates

    In the 2008 assembly poll, the Congress won 32 out of the 40 seats with 39 percent voteshare, while the MNF had three seats with 31 percent voteshare. In 2013, the Congress increased both its seat count and the voteshare (34 and 45 percent) while the MNF saw its voteshare decrease to 29 percent but walked away with five seats. In the last Lok Sabha election, Mizoram sent a Congress representative to the parliament the state's lone MP.

    Mizoram votes on November 28 and counting will be held on December 11. The magic number in the 40 member assembly is 21.

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