Feeling betrayed by the Congress, people in Mizoram see Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a “messiah” of development and the BJP as their “last hope”, claims Nirupam Chakma, the saffron party’s first Lok Sabha candidate from the northeastern state.
The five-time Congress legislator, who switched to the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2015, said people of the state gave ample opportunities to the Congress as well as the regional Mizo National Front (MNF) but have been repeatedly disappointed.
“It won’t be wrong to say the BJP is the last ray of hope for the people of Mizoram. The Congress has failed them and they will not elect a Congress candidate for the Lok Sabha polls,” Chakma told PTI in an interview.
People in the state, he said, want to give a chance to the Modi-led BJP. It is their last hope to see Mizoram tread new paths in development and be put on the same pedestal as high growth states such as Maharashtra and Gujarat, Chakma said.
“People’s opinion about the BJP is changing for good in Mizoram and this time they want to elect a BJP candidate. I can confidently say they won’t be disappointed,” he added.
Mizoram, which goes to the polls on April 11, was part of Assam until 1972 when it was carved out as a union territory. It became India’s 23rd state on February 20, 1987. Since then, the lone Lok Sabha seat in the state has been held by either the Congress or the MNF.
The BJP, with its Hindutva brand of politics, has never been a serious contender in the Christian dominated state. It decided to field a candidate in the Lok Sabha election this time after winning its first-ever assembly seat in the 2018 state polls.
According to Chakma, the MNF winning the November 2018 legislative assembly election by bagging 26 of the 40 seats will have no bearing on the general election.
“People of Mizoram perceive Lok Sabha elections differently and it’s not necessary the results will be similar to the assembly elections,” he said.
Chakma said he may belong to a minority community but is confident of getting support from all corners of the state.
“I am not banking on just my community votes. My 22 years of experience in Mizoram politics says that I will get the support of people from every section of society,” Chakma, who also was the first minister from his community in Mizoram, said.
“They, too, understand that it is important for a BJP candidate to be elected in order to ensure and see the implementation of developmental schemes under a BJP-led government at the centre,” he added.
The Chakmas, a minority in Mizoram, are ethnic people who lived in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, most of which are located in Bangladesh. They are predominantly Buddhists and reside in pockets across northeast India, West Bengal, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
The opposition Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) in the Mizoram assembly and the Congress have forged an alliance to contest the Lok Sabha election and have fielded Lalnghinglova Hmar, a sports journalist and Mizoram Football Association honorary secretary.
Alleging that unemployment, lack of business opportunities, corruption in government tendering processes and improper health institutions are key issue plaguing the state, Chakma accused the previous governments of swindling money meant for public welfare.
“It is not that the Narendra Modi government did not allot money to Mizoram. However, whatever funds came in during the last four-five years were swindled by the Congress government, leaving public institutions cash strapped and crippling welfare policies,” Chakma alleged.
Emphasising that people of Mizoram have high hopes from the BJP, Chakma said his priorities, once elected, will be to create employment by bringing multinational companies to the state as it is rich in natural resources and has some of the most talented people in the country.
Mizoram, with a literacy rate of over 90 per cent, has a high unemployment rate. The youth often indulge in unorganised, cross-border trade of betel nuts, fertilisers and livestock with traders from Myanmar, with which the state shares 510 km of an unfenced border.
Both the Central and state governments do not get a whiff of the revenue generated from such trade as nothing is on record, experts said.