There is no anti-incumbency in Mizoram, people want Congress to continue: CM Lal Thanhawla
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There is no anti-incumbency in Mizoram, people want Congress to continue: CM Lal Thanhawla

Ahead of Mizoram assembly elections next year, chief minister Lal Thanhawla told HT in an exclusive interview he wants India to remain a secular state.

india Updated: Jul 12, 2018 09:31 IST
Sadiq Naqvi
Sadiq Naqvi
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Mizoran chief minister,Mizoram,Congress
Mizoram chief minister Pu Lalthanhawla said the Congress is confident of returning to power in the state but the central leadership needs to do more.(PTI File Photo)

Guwahati Mizoram, the last remaining Congress-ruled state in the Northeast is due for elections later this year. Senior party leader and five-time chief minister Lal Thanhawla tells Sadiq Naqvi in Guwahati that the Congress is confident of returning to power but the central leadership needs to do more. Edited excerpts:

How do you plan to save Mizoram, the last Congress-ruled state in the Northeast? The opposition has criticised the state government for lack of development.

As far as the mood of the people is concerned, they want the Congress to continue. There is no anti-incumbency... In terms of gross state domestic product, we are among the best four states in the country along with Jharkhand, Tripura and Gujarat. In terms of per capita income, it is higher than the national average by more than Rs 1,000. NITI Aayog and other agencies have declared Mizoram as the least malnourished state. Our new land use policy is aimed at helping farmers and the working class for a sustainable economy... And to supplement this programme we have evolved a new economic development policy to try and pull bring out Mizoram from subsistence economy to market economy.

But the Mizo National Front (MNF) and other opposition parties have labelled these as vote-buying tactics, that you are giving cash as dole…

We never distribute cash for votes. We have been helping the poor farmers for the last 10 years. The prime minister is claiming to double farmers income, we have done it long ago. Opposition may say whatever they want.

But in the recent Chakma Autonomous District Council elections, the Congress performed badly and had to align with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Even though the council was ruled by the Congress, the financial management was very bad...I agree with the governor for dissolving the council owing to corruption. In this chaos and confusion elections were held, and that has gone against the Congress.

Local leaders have been complaining that the Congress central leadership hasn’t been forthcoming when it comes to the Northeast...

That is my grievance too. There is one general secretary (CP Joshi) looking after all the northeastern states... except for a visit about six months ago, we have not seen his face all these years.

BJP leaders in Mizoram claim you are using the church to communalise the elections.

I am a political man, not a religious man. I don’t mix politics with religion. I want India to remain a secular state and all leaders should have secular credentials because in this country, unity and diversity has to be maintained. I am happy that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is talking of cooperative and collective federalism.

You have been criticised by the MNF and other opposition parties for lifting prohibition, which they say is against Christian tenets and has left so many people dead.

ln Christian countries, there is no prohibition. Wherever prohibition is imposed, it fails miserably. In Mizoram also we tried, but we failed. I don’t want liquor should be overflowing in Mizoram, I simply want Mizo community should not be disturbed or suffer because of liquor. If they want to drink, let them drink responsibly, for enjoyment, for friendship. Earlier, at the behest of the church I tried 17 long years (of prohibition), but liquor was overflowing.

First Published: Jul 12, 2018 06:58 IST