Too many Independents in the fray are giving the major parties, the ruling Congress and its challenger, the Mizo National Front (MNF), sleepless nights in Mizoram.
Of the total 201 candidates seeking a berth in the 40-member Assembly, 59 are Independents and five of them are contesting two seats each. There were 11 independents each in the 2003 and 2008 elections and nine in 2013.
Independents have invariably cut a sorry figure in the hill State where the MNF and the Congress have shared power in the past two decades. But the buzz this time is around the Independents, specifically, the 36 fielded by the unregistered Zoram People’s Movement. The ZPM, a new regional entity formed by the merger of seven parties, is being seen as the proverbial dark horse because of their presumed susceptibility to horse-trading if the verdict on December 11 — the day of counting — is a hung Assembly.
“We are confident of improving upon the 34 seats we won in 2013. But money power could play a major role for the first time in Mizoram,” Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla said without naming the Bharatiya Janata Party, desperate to make the last of the eight north-eastern States ‘Congress-free’.
Congress spokesperson Lal Lianchhunga was more specific.
“The BJP can do anything to grab power, as we have seen elsewhere in the northeast, and there are a large number of Independents this time,” he said.
The MNF, otherwise a partner of the BJP in the North East Democratic Alliance, suspects the BJP of “funding” independents too. “But no force can, even a rich party like BJP, can stop us this time,” MNF general secretary James B. Ralte said.
“They are imagining things because the voters want neither of them,” State BJP general secretary Gary T. Haokip said.