When Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah makes his planned visit to Mizoram this month, officials of his organisation’s state unit have arranged for him to meet with church elders and receive a memorandum from them. Their note will remind the BJP that “India is a secular state, that the people of Mizoram are against the beef ban, and that we protest the anti-conversion bill”, said a senior official in the party's Aizawl office.

The memo, which challenges some of the Sangh Parivar's most prized axioms, is the brainchild of the party's own state unit. A senior party leader contacted church elders and asked them to prepare it. Mizoram, which is 85% Christian has long been wary of the BJP’s Hindutva preoccupations. Party leaders were hoping that the Modi effect will neutralise some of that suspicion. However, recent steps by the BJP have made matters worse.

The latest source of anger for the state’s people is the sacking of Mizoram governor Aziz Qureshi on Saturday. He is the sixth governor to leave the state since the Modi government took charge in May. He was the second governor to be sacked – after Kamla Beniwal.

Poster children

In 2013, when Lal Thanhawla's Congress government came to power, large posters were printed with images of the new chief minister, then-Governor Vakkom Purushottaman, cabinet ministers, senior secretaries, the speaker and other members of the government.

Today, these posters serve as reminder of the times when the tenure of a Mizoram governor used to be measured in years – not months or weeks.

Purushottaman resigned in July after he was transferred to Nagaland, saying he had not been consulted. Kamla Beniwal was sacked a month later, for allegedly being involved in a corrupt land deal in Jaipur and for misusing power while in office in Gujarat. In August, Maharashtra governor K Sankaranarayanan was asked to shift to Aizawl but he refused to take up the offer and quit when his transfer orders came.

The next person to enter this revolving door was ex-home secretary VK Duggal who, as the governor of Manipur, was given additional charge of Mizoram. But he quit too, only saying he was resigning of his own volition. Then came the turn of Meghalaya governor KK Paul who held additional charge till he was transferred to Uttarakhand.

A sudden decision

Qureishi, who assumed the post on January 9, was sacked last weekend. No reason was given, but he had taken the government to court in August for what he claimed was pressure to quit as governor of Uttarakhand. “Such an action would never be taken in a civil society while the matter is pending before the Supreme Court,” said a senior Raj Bhavan official on condition of anonymity. “The Constitution Bench is hearing the matter. The next date for the hearing has been given. In the meantime, the status quo has to be maintained.”

In the state, some have expressed anger at the move. Asked Madhurjya Sarmah, a doctor in Aizawl, “If all the BJP wants is a friendly governor, why is it changing Mizoram governors so often?” Why doesn't it choose one suitable person and end the matter there, he asked. All this shifting is creating a lot of annoyance in the state.

An employee in Raj Bhavan concurred. “This makes us feel like a dumping ground,” this person said. “Why are governors being changed so quickly?”

This resentment is shared by Mizo Zirlai Pawl, the state’s largest student union. It plans to protest when President Pranab Mukherjee lands in Aizawl for two-day visit next week. The students union has also visited Raj Bhavan, asking when the new governor will be sworn in. More protests look likely.

Lalhluna, the president of the BJP's Mizoram unit, described Qureishi sacking as a matter that was “between the central government and the governor”. He added, “We have not felt any discrimination from him. We do not know what happened.” However, both he and JV Hluna, the chairman of the BJP in Mizoram, said having a pro-BJP governor would help the party. That said, it is not clear if the new governor – Keshari Nath Tripathi, the current governor of West Bengal – is pro-BJP.

The episode highlights the disconnect between the BJP's central and state teams. It also illustrates a widening divide between the BJP and the people of Mizoram, a development that is taking place at the very time the party is looking to make inroads into the North East.

Cancelling Christmas

Among the BJP’s first blunders was its decision to declare December 25 as Good Governance Day. This meant that government employees were expected to be at their offices on Christmas day. Needless to say, in this devoutly Christian state, hardly anyone went.

Since then, the BJP has also targeted Good Friday. Last month, bureaucrats and ministers in state departments in charge of building roads and highways got a letter from Nitin Gadkari's Ministry of Road Transport and Highways asking them to attend a meeting with him in Guwahati on April 3. The Mizoram administration eventually wrote him a letter informing him that Good Friday was an important religious holiday and the meeting would not be possible.

The latest in this litany of perceived high-handedness is the beef ban imposed in several states ruled by the BJP. The vast majority of people in Mizoram eat beef. With village council elections later this month, party president Lalhluna said, “We might lose some seats due to the beef ban. The Congress and the Mizo National Front are already saying the BJP will outlaw beef if it comes to power.”