In focus:citizens’ register Mizoram 2018

Mizoram doesn’t need NRC: Lal Thanhawla

Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla. Photo: Special Arrangement  

Mizoram’s Congress Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla asserted that the State did not need an Assam-like National Register of Citizens, rebuffing calls from among a section of Mizos who view the minority Bru and Chakma tribal people as outsiders.

“We have no programme whatsoever for NRC,” Mr. Thanhawla told reporters at the State Congress headquarters in Aizawl’s Treasury Square on Thursday. “If the MNF wants it, one should remember that it doesn’t do what it means. After winning the 1998 Assembly election, the MNF said it would implement 70 of the 72 points in its manifesto but did just the opposite. They can say anything,” he said, referring to the opposition Mizo National Front’s campaign promise of setting up a citizens register.

The three-time Chief Minister, who has been an MLA nine times since 1978 and declared his age as 80 in his latest election affidavit, hinted at the BJP capitalising on the Bru refugee issue and trying to influence voters with money power. About 40,000 Brus fled to neighbouring Tripura in 1997 in the wake of alleged ethnic persecution, and only a few families have returned to the State after several failed repatriation attempts.

“Any anti-Mizo party would want to capitalise on the Bru issue,” Mr. Thanhawla said. “Vested interests in Tripura camps are at work. Right from 1997, I have been appealing to them not to leave, and had arrested the few anti-social elements responsible for the disturbance,” he added.

Mizoram doesn’t need NRC: Lal Thanhawla

Commenting on BJP president Amit Shah’s confidence that Mizoram would celebrate Christmas this year under a non-Congress government, Mr. Thanhawla said: “We believe in freedom of expression. Let him say what he wants to.”

The BJP’s chances of winning in the State were dependent on “how much money power” would influence the outcome of this election, he contended. “I never wanted to spoil the Mizo people with money... That is the worst thing in electioneering, for society. I have rejected AICC’s offer for election funds three-four times, accepting nothing beyond our needs.”

Mr. Thanhawla denied the Congress had given up hope on the Chakmas.

“If that were the case, we would not have put up candidates. The MNF initially said it would not field candidates in Chakma areas, but one should ask why their leader had promised them a strong Chakma nation. Did he mean to grant them independence?”

The Buddhist Chakmas are a major voting force in three Assembly constituencies of southern Mizoram.

‘No anti-incumbency’

The Chief Minister said there was not even a breeze against the Congress, “not to speak of a wave”. It was only the MNF which was talking about ‘anti-incumbency’.

Predicting a hat-trick of Congress wins, he said that the party would improve upon its performance from 2013, when it won 34 of the 40 seats. Defection of “corrupt” Congress ministers and MLAs to other parties, the success of the party’s flagship New Land Use Policy (NLUP) and the people’s experience of the MNF’s style of functioning were prime factors, he said.

“They [defectors] have made our party stronger. Today, Congress workers, leaders, and ministers are very happy,” Mr. Thanhawla said.

He brushed aside his rivals’ criticism of the NLUP.

“Today, Mizoram is among the top four states in terms of GDP growth; we are higher than the national average in terms of per capita income, and we have been declared the least malnourished state. What more do they expect? Our GDP [growth] is more than 8% and is predicted to touch double-digit this fiscal, whereas the central GDP [growth] is forecast to be 7.6%. Facts don’t lie,” he asserted.

The Congress would continue the NLUP programme and try to convert Mizoram’s “subsistence economy into a market economy”.

Mr. Thanhawla also dismissed the opposition’s stand on prohibition. “Prohibition does not influence voters, only helps bootleggers, illegal distillers, smugglers, and drug dealers,” he said.

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 8:21:45 PM |

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