With the outcome of the Mizoram Assembly elections out, the results show a clear winner in the Mizo National Front (MNF) that has been out of power for the last ten years. According to the Election Commission of India trends, the MNF seems set to win 25 seats in the house of 40 with a 37.6 per cent vote share.
As the MNF readies to return to power in the state, here is a look at how the party came into being and how it transformed its identity over the decades.
In 1959, when the Mizo hills were part of Assam, the region was hit by a devastating famine that subsequently resulted in a boom in rodent population. Plague and starvation resulted in the death of many and everyday life was completely disrupted. During this period of havoc, a cultural organisation rose to the occasion, protesting against government inaction in solving the plight of the people and aggressively went about demanding relief. The Mizo Cultural Society was formed in 1955, but by 1960 it had been renamed as Mizo National Famine Front (MNFF) on account of their role during the famine in the hills.
By 1961, the MNFF had reorganised itself as an insurgent outfit demanding autonomy for the Mizo hills. The Mizo National Front (MNF) was formed on October 22, 1961 with Laldenga as its president. In the midst of the secessionist wave that ran strong across the state in the 1960s, the MNF launched a major uprising against the government in 1966 and fought the state for close to two decades.
The anti-establishment movement finally came to an end in June 1986 when the Mizoram Peace Accord was signed between the MNF and the government of India. As per this agreement the region was given statehood and the separate state of Mizoram was born in February 1987. MNF chief Laldenga became the state’s first chief minister. In the 1998 and 2003, MNF won majority in the state with Zoramthanga as CM for most of this period. In the 2008 elections, however, the party lost power to the Congress and couldn’t come back in 2013 either. In 2018, it seems all set to return to power.
In a state with a Christian majority, the Church plays a decisive role in all matters related to civil society. In the last five years of Congress rule, a major factor that went against the party is its decision to do away with complete prohibition in the state and allow the consumption of alcohol in moderation. The move that was seen as anti-Church was one of the major points of debate this electoral season. The MNF capitalised on the moment by promising complete prohibition if it came to power.
However, the party also had issues playing against it, particularly the fact that it is part of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), a political alliance formed by the BJP in 2016 to bring together a large number of regional political parties in the North East in opposition to the Congress. In Mizoram, the BJP’s lack of popularity is largely built upon its image of an anti-minority, pro-Hindutva party. The MNF’s association with an alliance built by the BJP could have played out against the former. However, as results show the first political party of Mizoram managed to garner popular support despite all odds and emerge a clear winner.