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The Assembly election for Mizoram took place on 11 December 2018. The Mizoram polls hold significance for the Congress as the Grand Old Party is protecting its last bastion in the Northeast as Mizoram is the only remaining state there that is not under the rule of the BJP-led NDA government. Exit polls suggested that the Mizo National Front (MNF) would trump the ruling Congress by a slim margin but fall short of the majority mark of 21 in the 40-member Mizoram assembly. An analysis of the exit polls predictions showed the MNF winning 18 seats, the Congress 16 and the others six, while not giving the BJP even a single win in the Mizoram polls. The BJP had set its eyes on Mizoram this time as all other northeastern states are now ruled either the saffron party or others supported by it.

The Mizoram assembly election was held on November 28 and its result of the polls decided whether Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla of the Congress will be able to return for a third consecutive term in office. Thanhawla lost from both his home turf Serchhip and Champhai South seat. Lal Thanhawla was defeated in Serchhip by the Zoram People’s Movement’s (ZPM) chief ministerial candidate Lalduhoma by a margin of 410 votes. He also lost to T J Lalnuntluanga, a political novice and Mizo National Front (MNF) nominee, by a margin of 1,049 votes in Champhai South constituency near the Myanmar border.

Around 95 percent of the state’s population is classified as Scheduled Tribe, making Mizoram the state with the highest concentration of tribal people. Around 87 percent of Mizos are Christians. Buddhists make up around 8 percent of the population, making them the largest minority.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) looked to make a mark in a state which has key players like Congress and Mizoram National Front (MNF). BJP Mizoram unit is planning to contest all the assembly constituencies in the coming assembly elections. Meanwhile, Mizoram Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) president and chief minister Lal Thanhawla said there is no Modi wave in Mizoram. Lal Thanhawla said he does not see the BJP as a threat ahead of the assembly election in the state due in the last quarter of 2018. “I am aware of their (BJP’s) efforts under the North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), but they will not be able to dent our chances. Modi is no threat for the Congress in Mizoram,” the Congress leader and five time CM said.

The most important political leader in Mizoram is undoubtedly Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla. The 79-year-old Congress leader has been Mizoram chief minister five times. He landed himself in controversy in November after failing to provide information about owning land in Kolkata.

A new group called Zoram Exodus Movement (ZEM), formed by retired priests, retired government officials and senior journalists, announced an alliance with the Zoram Nationalist Party (ZN) and the Mizoram People’s Conference (MPC) under the banner of Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM). Anti-corruption watchdog People’s Right to Information and Development Implementation Society of Mizoram (PRISM) converted itself into a political party as People’s Representation for Identity and Status of Mizoram and retained its abbreviated form: PRISM. The Maraland Democratic Front (MDF), earlier an ally of the Opposition Mizo National Front (MNF), merged with the BJP on 25 October along with its two members of district council (MDCs) in the Mara Autonomous District Council.

On February 11, 2018 the Mizo National Front (MNF), a constituent of BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) has said it would have no truck with the saffron party in the assembly election in the state around year end which it would fight on its own.This was asserted by former Mizoram Chief Minister and MNF chief Zoramthanga. “The MNF would contest the coming election to the 40-member Mizoram state Assembly due by the end of the year on its own and without forging any alliances,” he said while addressing a public meeting at North Vanlaiphai village in the state’s central Serchhip district.

The Mizoram election in 2018 may see illegal immigration from neighboring countries such as Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal become one of the most important issues. In October 2017 the state unit of BJP urged the Congress government in the state to detect and deport foreigners who had illegally entered the state from neighbouring countries. In December 2017, a conglomerate of major civil societies and student associations of Mizoram urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure that all illegal immigrants, especially Chakmas from Bangladesh, were deported.

Unemployment is also one of the biggest problem. The rapid development is not creating enough jobs and livelihood. Poverty is also an issue, with 20.40 percent of the population living below the poverty line in 2011-12. The two main reasons for poverty in the state are under-developed agriculture and unskilled labor.

Mizoram became the 23rd state of Indian Union in February 1987. For over two decades, it has experienced peace and steady progress. Mizoram Peace Accord signed in 1986 has the distinction of being the most enduring and successful Peace Accord in the history of Independent India. It was one of the districts of Assam until 1972 when it became a Union Territory.

About 95% of current Mizoram population is of diverse tribal origins who settled in the state, mostly from southeast Asia, over waves of migration starting about 16th century but mainly in 18th century. This is the highest concentration of tribal people among all states of India, and they are currently protected under Indian constitution as a Scheduled Tribe. The tribes converted from Animist religions to Christianity over the first half of 20th century. Mizoram is one of three states of India with a Christian majority (87%). Its people belong to various denominations, mostly Presbyterian in its North and Baptists in South.

Mizoram is a highly literate agrarian economy, but suffers from slash-and-burn jhum or shifting cultivation, and poor crop yields. In recent years, the jhum farming practices are steadily being replaced with a significant horticulture and bamboo products industry. The state's gross state domestic product for 2012 was estimated at 6,991 crore (US$1.0 billion). The state has about 871 kilometers of national highways, with NH-54 and NH-150 connecting it to Assam and Manipur respectively. It is also a growing transit point for trade with Myanmar and Bangladesh.

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Page last modified: 12-12-2018 13:15:17 ZULU