Even as BJP national president Amit Shah launched the party's poll campaign in Mizoram on Wednesday, the church organisations — which have all along been vocal against the saffron party — have surprisingly chosen to remain silent.
The silence of the church organisations at a time when the BJP has become part of ruling dispensations in six of the seven northeastern states has drawn multiple interpretations.
Significantly, Mizoram is one among the three Christian states in the North East. The remaining two are Meghalaya and Nagaland. Nearly 87 percent of Mizos are Christians.
“It is not only the presence of large Christian population that makes them known as Christian states. The reason why these states are known as Christian states is rather political,” says renowned academician Professor Apurba Kumar Barua, who served a long term of his career as a teacher in the political science department in North Eastern Hill University.
He adds that the churches in these three states wield tremendous influence on the state machinery and local politics, which is why they are known as Christian states. The influence of churches in these states’ politics has always been visible.
Be it resisting BJP’s Hindutva politics or opposition of practicing yoga in schools, the churches have always made their stance clear on political issues. Even in Mizoram, churches were vocal against the Hindutva politics of the BJP, which had earlier put BJP on the back foot.
In fact, the BJP went through a patchy phase in Mizoram just after the saffron party won over Assam in 2016 Assembly elections, as fear of upsurge in Hindutva politics in the region gripped the Christian state to the core.
In an interview with Firstpost published during that period, JV Hluna, the president of the state unit of the saffron party had lamented, “We are having a difficult time in convincing the church that Hindutva is not our agenda, but development is.”
But Hluna, much to his surprise, has now observed that the resistance of the church against the BJP has subdued in the last two years. “Though there are still some fundamentalist forces spreading agenda against BJP, the Church is not against the party this time around,” he said.
Interestingly, the BJP has now a far more powerful presence in the state than what it had earlier. In the 2013 Assembly election, the party had fielded 17 candidates in the state which has 40 Assembly segments. This has changed much as the party is confident enough to increase the number of candidates substantially. “We are likely to field 27 to 30 candidates this time around as our prospects have grown much brighter than what they were earlier,” says Hluna.
Even though the party did not win a single seat in the 2013 Assembly election, it won 5 of the 20 seats in the Buddhist-dominated Chakma Autonomous District Council election held earlier this year.
Has the church chosen to remain silent because it thinks the BJP has no chance of winning the election or becoming a part of the dispensation to be formed after the election? Or is it because the church fears losing its face in case people do not pay heed to its appeal and vote for the BJP, just in the lines of Nagaland Assembly polls held early this year?
Chuanteya, a resident of Aizawl, told Firstpost that the BJP has every right to propagate its ideology but it is the people who are to decide whether they will accept it or not.
“I cannot comment for the church. But as a citizen, I personally feel that Hindutva politics has hardly any scope in Mizoram, as the Mizos are mostly Christians. Irrespective of the outcome of the election, Hindutva is unlikely to gain foothold in Mizo society,” he said.
On the other hand, another source in Mizoram, on condition of anonymity, says that BJP has no seat-sharing alliance in Mizoram and hence, people in the state have enough parties to vote for even if they do not vote for Congress and BJP.
“This was not the case in Nagaland where the saffron party forged a seat-sharing alliance with Nationalist Democratic People’s Party, a regional outfit led by three-time Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio. People who were fed up with the ruling Naga People’s Front had to vote for BJP in many constituencies as there were hardly any plausible options for them,” the source said.
Significantly, in Nagaland Assembly election held early this year, the BJP won 12 seats out of the 20 it fielded candidates for.
In Nagaland, despite vehement opposition from the Church, the saffron party won more than 50 percent of the seats it fielded candidates in.
But in Mizoram, Mizo National Front — a long-time ally of the NDA — has denied to forge any alliance with the BJP in the Assembly elections to be held in the month of November.
Firstpost tried to contact Reverend Lalramliana Pachau, one of the most vocal Church representatives in Mizoram via phone and messages, but he is yet to respond as to why the Christian religious institutions have chosen to remain silent on the issue of BJP.
Updated Date: Oct 19, 2018 17:46 PM