For the first time ever, the oath-taking ceremony of the new Mizoram Chief Minister and ministers will take place amid Christian rituals. Zoramthanga, of the MNF which won 26 seats out of 40 in Mizoram, shall take oath in a Christian ceremony with the reading of biblical verses and singing of religious hymns like Handel’s famed ‘Hallelujah Chorus’. This will then be followed by the National Anthem.
Zoramthanga of the Mizo National Front had earlier been Chief Minister from 1998-2008, and the party is known for its close proximity with the Church. It was the church that acted as a pacifying force which helped to end the days of insurgency for the MNF, promoted peace and democracy hence in 1986 the Mizo Peace Accord was signed between the insurgent MNF and the Indian government. The state obtained statehood in 1987 and the state, thereafter, has largely been peaceful projecting Mizoram as an outstanding example for the rest of the North East States.
Mizoram has witnessed robust missionary activities in the last 50 years, reaching nearly the entire Mizo community and today 87 percent of the population in Mizoram is Christian. The Church has taken a guardianship role for the people of Mizoram and has great influence in every social and political issue. The power of Church manifests itself even more during elections when it promotes free and fair elections, guides and controls the decisions of political parties such as selection of poll candidates only if they do not have an infidelity record and are free from alcohol and other substances; reducing election expenses and promises made in their manifestos.
In this 2018 Assembly election, the issue of prohibition of liquor took center stage. The Congress government had diluted the absolute prohibition of alcohol in 2014 allowing the sale of limited amounts of alcohol to adult consumers, but the Church had strongly opposed it along with the MNF. The Congress was expected to change its stance in this election but it did not turn the Chruch against them and for the MNF which promised an absolute ban on liquor at the behest of the Church.
Political parties and civil society in Mizoram know better than to defy the verdict of the Church. The church has always strongly guided against voting for the BJP. When a pastor with no political background joined the BJP as a poll candidate, he was expelled from the Mission for Christ on grounds that he should have stayed away from politics and remained a “lifetime missionary” but a pastor candidate from the MNF faced no such penalty. The pastor candidate of the BJP, L R Colney had said, “I don’t understand why they have taken the tough stand against me, while they have not initiated any action against Lalthangliana. Most people here consider the BJP as an anti-Christian party, but this is a misconception. I am new to politics, but ready to contest and I am confident of winning. The BJP has a vision for the development of the country and Mizoram, and I will try to drive this message to the voters”.
While the Church safeguards peace in the state, it also has been stifling differences in opinion. Its hostility towards the BJP which is only in its natal stages in the state and despite the hostilities and rumour mongering the BJP has gained an 8 per cent vote share in 2018 from 0.37 per cent in 2013 due to it’s development agenda. The MNF on the other hand cashes in on the same influential power of the Church.
The MNF, deciding to have a Christian ceremony raises questions as the same has not been seen before in the country. Also, had there been a government in another state of India, with another religious majority, demonstrating the same in a swearing in ceremony, levels of disapproval by politicians and Church bodies would hit the ceiling and that India is a secular country would be echoed across the nation.