Poll-bound Mizoram’s roads have given the Bharatiya Janata Party the stick to beat its “ally” Mizo National Front (MNF) with.
The ruling MNF is a partner in the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) but the two parties are rivals in Mizoram. The two parties are said to have started drifting apart over the past few months, specifically after the ethnic clashes in the BJP-ruled Manipur five months ago made more than 12,000 Kuki-Zo people take shelter in Mizoram.
Addressing a rally for the BJP’s Mizoram unit president Vanlalhmuaka in Dampa Assembly constituency on Monday, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways and senior party leader Nitin Gadkari said the MNF government’s indifference to a couple of vital road projects have delayed infrastructure development that could have generated jobs in the region.
The Dampa seat is in Mamit district, where hundreds of oil palm, areca nut, rubber, and other cash crop farmers have been suffering from poor roads and a lack of proper access to the markets beyond Mizoram. It is one of three constituencies in the district — the others are Mamit and Hachhek — crucial for the BJP to increase its tally in the 40-member House from the single seat it won in 2018.
“The Centre approved and provided money for a 98 km four-lane road from Silchar [Assam] to Sairang [railhead near Aizawl] but the Mizoram government has been unable to provide land due to a conflict between the Revenue and Forest Departments,” Mr Gadkari said.
The BJP leader also faulted the MNF government on other vital projects. “The State government is not providing my department with land and not cooperating with us [ministry] as per expectations,” he said.
Outlining a slew of road projects completed, under construction, and planned in Mizoram, Mr Gadkari unveiled the Centre’s plan for a 1,700-km highway along the India-Myanmar border from Mizoram to Nagaland through Manipur.
“This will vastly improve connectivity in the border areas. Money is not a problem; what we need is land acquisition and forest clearance,” he said, while also announcing trans-border road projects providing Mizoram with access to seaports in Bangladesh and Myanmar.
One of these is the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project linking Mizoram to Sittwe port in Myanmar’s Rakhine province. The project would be made operational within a year of “taking office”, the BJP hassaid in its election manifesto.