Famine-causing rats sparked off a chain of events that led to the birth of the Mizo National Front (MNF) half a century ago. The rodents have returned to decide the electoral fate of the party of ex-rebels that has ruled Mizoram for 10 years now.
In the 'rat race' to the 40-member House being held on Tuesday, are the MNF, the Congress and the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), an alliance of three regional parties.
Keen on regaining power, the Congress has been harping on the MNF’s misrule and misuse of funds, particularly a sum of Rs 125 crore provided by the centre to combat mautam or famine caused by a particular species of bamboo that flowers every 50-55 years. The flower yields a fruit that increases the fertility of the rats which consume them. Armies of rats then invade the fields, eating up the crop, leaving little for humans.
This is what happened in the late 1950s, and has been happening once again for the past two years now. The first time, the centre tardy response led to the formation of the MNF which sought to break away from the Indian union. The insurrection ended more than two decades later, with the signing of the Mizoram accord in 1986.
This time around, the centre has been far more generous with assistance. But the state Congress insists there was no real threat of famine, and that the MNF raised a false alarm to hive off the funds for its cadres. The MNF maintains its timely steps prevented a mautam re-run besides ensuring development and prosperity for farmers in Mizoram. It is confident of riding the development plank to be in power for the third straight time.