MNF is back in power in Mizoram

The MNF won 26 of Mizoram’s 40 Assembly seats after the results were declared on Tuesday.

December 11, 2018 11:42 pm | Updated December 12, 2018 12:03 am IST - Aizawl

Lal Thanhawla

Lal Thanhawla

The Mizo National Front (MNF) wrested power from the Congress after 10 years, by registering its best-ever performance.

The MNF won 26 of Mizoram’s 40 Assembly seats after the results were declared on Tuesday.

The Congress won five seats to lose the party’s last outpost in the eight-State northeast.

The BJP rules six of the other States on its own or in alliance with regional parties.

“The people have given their preference, and I honour that,” Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, 80, said after submitting his resignation to Governor Kummanam Rajasekharan an hour before Mr. Zoramthanga staked his claim.

The BJP opened its account with Buddha Dhan Chakma, who had defected from the Congress, winning the Tuichawng Assembly seat dominated by the Buddhist Chakma minority community. The party had cut a sorry figure in its past elections since 1993.

The Zoram People’s Movement, a combine of seven regional entities, ended up second best after the MNF by winning eight seats. The party fell short of expectations but its president Lalduhoma, a retired IPS officer, scored on the personal front by winning both the seats he contested.

He ended up being a giantkiller by defeating Congress heavyweight and Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla at the latter’s home base Serchhip by 410 votes. Mr. Lalduhoma also won the Aizawl West-I seat.

Loss for brothers

Apart from losing Serchhip, the Chief Minister lost the Champhai South seat to MNF’s JT Lalnuntluanga by 1,049 votes. His fate was in keeping with Mizoram’s tendency to vote out a party as well as the Chief Minister contesting two seats after 10 years, as was the case with Mr. Zoramthanga in 2003.

Lal Thanzara, the Chief Minister’s brother who was believed to be running the government most of the time, lost the Aizawl North-III seat to MNF’s C. Lalmuanpuia by 434 votes.

Congress spokesperson Lal Lianchhunga attributed the party’s loss to its inability in projecting the “good work done through the farmer-friendly” New Land Use Policy (NLUP) and the support of the influential church to the MNF’s prohibition policy. “The ZPM helped the MNF too by cutting into the Congress votes,” he said.

Under pressure from the church, the Congress had imposed prohibition in 1997 but amended the rules to bring in controlled prohibition in 2014.

‘No outside support’

Mr. Zoramthanga, who won the Aizawl East-I seat by a margin of 2,504 votes, attributed MNF’s victory to the anti-incumbency factor, failure of the Congress to provide good roads and a liquor policy that “affected Mizo society adversely.” He also said the people accepted his party’s manifesto that promised an improved version of NLUP called Socio-Economic Development Policy.

“We will implement total prohibition,” he said.

Mr. Zoramthanga, who was Chief Minister for two consecutive terms from 1998-2003, made light of the BJP’s ‘reminder’ that his party was part of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), a front the saffron party had floated in 2016 to ensure a ‘Congress-free’ region.

“We don’t need outside support, but everyone is welcome to support us – Congress, ZPM or the BJP,” he said.

The MNF had won 24 seats in its first election in 1987 under the legendary Laldenga, under whom it transformed from an extremist group into a political party.

State BJP president J.V. Hluna had earlier hoped that the lone party candidate, Mr. Chakma, would be accommodated in the MNF government and “continue to be part of the National Democratic Alliance.” Mr. Hluna also marked the issue of former Chief Elector Officer S.B. Shashank’s removal over enrolling the Bru voters as a factor for the BJP’s loss. “The Chief Minister used it to keep us out but he became a victim himself,” he said. Mr. Hluna lost his deposit in Tawi seat. He got only 714 votes

Apart from the Chakmas, the BJP had banked on the Brus to put up a better show in Mizoram. The MNF won two of the three seats in Mamit district, where the concentration of Brus is the highest. The Hachhek seat, where a special booth was set up for 11,987 Bru voters in relief camps in adjoining Tripura, went to the Congress.

Women voted out

None of the 15 women candidates – six of them fielded by the BJP – failed to make it in Mizoram where women comprise 51.25% of the total 768,181 voters. The losers include Vanlalawmpuii Chawngthu, a minister in the Lal Thanhawla government, who lost the Hrangturzo seat.

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