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The Chakma Autonomous Council elections are unlikely to hit national headlines, and I can see why. It is, after all, one of the three autonomous councils of Mizoram, a tiny state with a population lower than several mainland cities. Then, there is the size of the electorate: under 36,000, and you realise why few outside Mizoram would be paying attention. 

But the BJP is paying attention big time. 

Over the past decade, one narrative that has found many takers is that the BJP has grown from strength to strength in Chirstian states like Meghayala and Nagaland. 

But as is often the case, the truth lies beyond what meets the eye. In Nagaland and Meghalaya, the party ‘rules’ courtesy an alliance. We saw the effort put in by the BJP in the run-up to the Meghalaya elections, going as far as calling Meghalaya the most corrupt state in India. But despite going all out, the party managed to win 2 seats: the same as in 2018. In Nagaland, it won 12: the same as the previous election too. I am not saying that the party is not popular, but the party surely does not have the same power that it tends to portray. 

Which makes the upcoming Mizoram elections all the more important. 

The state, with a majority Christian population, goes to elections towards the end of 2023, and the BJP will be looking at winning more than the one seat it currently has in the 40-member assembly. 

And the upcoming elections in Chakma Autonomous Council will be a good way to test the political waters. Historically, the BJP can consider the Chakma region its strongest, but the party suffered a setback in 2021 when six BJP members joined the ruling Mizoram National Front (MNF).

Even though its members have headed the Chakma Autonomous Councils, they have never been able to hold on to the same, which partly explains why the Council is under President’s Rule since December 2022. 

MNF leader and Sports minister Robert Romawia Royte formally inducted six members – Buddhalila Chakma, Ajoy Kumar Chakma, Onish Moy Chakma, Anil Kanti Chakma, Hiranand Tongchangya and Sanjeev Chakma – into the MNF during a function held at the party office, with Buddhalila Chakma claiming that the majority of people in Mizoram generally have aversion to BJPs ideology. 

Buddhalila Chakma may have been speaking from a personal perspective, but he is not far from the truth. In Mizoram, if you wish to be in power, you also need the support of not only the Church but by extension, the Central Young Mizo Association, too. For now, the CYMA has shown no interest in supporting the BJP and without that, the party is unlikely to gain much in the state. 

This also explains why the BJP leaders have been warming up to the principal opposition party, the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM). 

Unlike the MNF, the ZPM is a much more recent phenomenon. The party took shape in 2017 with the aim of forming a non-Congress, non-MNF government in the state. The party, in alliance with smaller parties including the Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP), a state party, contested 36 of the 40 assembly seats in 2018 as an alliance and won eight seats. 

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But recently, the ZPM received two huge positive results: one was the induction of famous footballer Jeje Lalpekhlua and the other, more important, was the result of the Lunglei municipal polls. Surprising several experts, the ZPM managed a clean sweep, beating both the MNF and the Congress. Both bigwigs failed to open their accounts. The BJP was never in the picture.  

The BJP has been going all hammer and tongs to increase its popularity but unlike Meghalaya, Manipur and even Nagaland, where it has strong local leaders in its fold, the same cannot be said for Mizoram. Also, the strong Christian ethos in Mizoram makes it even more difficult for the BJP, still seen as a Hindu party by many, to make inroads.

The party has not been helped by the fact that even though MNF is their ally at the Centre as part of the National Democratic Alliance, they have not allied at the state level. The MNF may need the BJP at the Centre, but not at the state. The upcoming Chakma Council elections will be a good way for the BJP to show it matters in Mizoram.   

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