A pro-poor land use policy helped the Congress sweep the 2008 assembly election and return to power in Mizoram after 10 years. Mandate 2013 is expected to be a test of this policy in the party’s bid to retain power.
In the mid-1990s, the Congress came up with the land use policy to ensure land and a stable trade under agriculture, industry or animal husbandry sectors for the rural and urban poor.
A faulty implementation of the policy led to the Mizo National Front (MNF) victory in 1998.
Disillusionment with that policy refused to wear off; in the 2003 polls the MNF won again.
In 2008, the Congress, led by Lal Thanhawla, bagged 32 of the 40 seats. The victory had more to do with alleged misrule and corruption by the Lal Thanhawla-led MNF government than with its offer of a revamped performance-driven New Land Use Policy (NLUP).
Lal Thanhawla rode the flagship NLUP to begin his third stint as chief minister but the policy, worth more than `3,000 crore and entailing fiscal incentives, ran into complications.
The NLUP was said to have been ironed out midway through Lal Thanhawla’s term to benefit almost half the 257,581 households in Mizoram, according to Census 2011.
The Congress government called the NLUP a success but experts attributed the party’s below-par performance in the maiden municipal polls in 2010 to the policy’s inherent flaws.
The Congress pipped the MNF by a solitary seat in the Aizawl civic body polls, but it was primarily due to its alliance with the Zoram Nationalist Party, a regional outfit.
“The Congress improved its NLUP show after the civic polls. And this could tip the scales in its favour,” said former bureaucrat L Ruatliana.
“That the opposition has virtually no issue is evident from the targeting of Lal Thanhawla for wearing tilak at some Hindu function or visiting a temple.”
Almost 85% of people in Mizoram are Christians.
The church here outlines the dos and don’ts for political parties during elections.
The NLUP has also overshadowed other issues such as the influx of Chin people from Myanmar, drug abuse, autonomy for the Hmar tribals, resettlement of non-Christian Bru or Reang tribals, who are forced to be refugees in adjoining Tripura and a much-awaited deal with the church for lifting prohibition to enable grape farmers offload their produce to wineries.