In order to ensure free and fair polls in Mizoram, the Mizoram Presbyterian Church Synod formed Mizoram People’s Forum (MPF), an independent body, was formed in 2006 with church elders, members of three prominent organizations of women, young people and senior citizens of the State.
Church-backed MPF has been working in Mizoram as a poll watch-dog.
While Mizoram has 1.12 million Christians, 87 per cent of the total population of Mizoram, as per 2011 census, Mizoram Presbyterian Church (MPC) has around 600,000 followers and 1,097 churches in the State.
Like the guidelines set by the Election Commission of India (ECI) implementing the model code of conduct during polls, the MPF has also set some guidelines.
Though it has been reported the Mizoram Church has taken an anti-BJP stand fearing that if the Bharatiya janata Party (BJP), which talks about Hindutva, is voted to power, Christians’ interests would be ignored and the religious freedom in the State would be under threat, BJP chief Amit Shah in his recent visit to the State ensured a secular and peaceful Mizoram if voted to power..
Times Now in a report published on November 19, 2018 stated: “The church in Mizoram has stirred another massive controversy. It has taken a completely anti-BJP stand just ahead of the polls. They have decided not to vote for BJP. It has also issued guideline booklets asking the voters to keep in the mind the interests of the Christian community.”
The Mizoram Church has reportedly questioned the BJP-led Central Government’s decision to observe Christmas Day as the Good Governance Day.
However, Dr C Lalrampana of the Church of God Adventist, clarified: “We want that Mizoram should get a good and corruption free government but we cannot favor any particular political party. Whosoever comes to power should work for maintaining the secularism.”
The Congress is also concerned about the stand of the church against lifting of liquor prohibition.
In 1997, the then Congress Government enacted the Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition Act imposing prohibition on liquor at the behest of the church. But the Lal Thanhawla-led Congress Government revoked the ban in 2014 and passed the Mizoram Liquor Prohibition and Control Act.
The Presbyterian Church, Mizoram’s largest Christian denomination, has charged that alcohol-related deaths have gone up in Mizoram with the lifting of prohibition.
As per a study conducted by the church in 3 hospitals at Aizawl, the State capital, the number of alcohol-related death increased from 9.86 pc in 2014 to 23.23 pc in 2016.
Now, fearing that the Congress may lose support from the church in the ensuing Assembly polls, Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla recently said the ruling Congress would consult the churches on the liquor policy of the State they are voted to power again.
The church role in the polls of Mizoram has also been accepted in a positive manner by the Mizo National Front (MNF). Former Mizoram CM and president of the MNF, Zoramthanga has stated: “The church role has been very effective. The guidelines (MPF) prevent unnecessary expenses. The MPF is not trying to control the polls, but just ensuring we have free and fair elections.”
With the social media making impact on the young voters, the MPF has included new guidelines restricting misuse of social media platforms. The poll-watchdog has also made guidelines on misuse of minors in election activities.
It may be mentioned that former pastor Rev LR Colney, who is a BJP candidate for the ensuing Mizoram Assembly polls, was expelled by the Mission For Christ (MFC), a well-known para-church in Mizoram.
Rev Colney was an executive member of the body and a full-time missionary.
The impact of the church in the State Assembly polls 2018 will be clear after Mizoram goes to polls on November 28, 2018.