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Mizo regional parties going strong

The Congress in Mizoram is a poor shadow of itself. Majority in the party are said to be unhappy with the leadership of Lalthanhawla.

india Updated: Oct 27, 2003 13:32 IST

Once a Congress bastion, Mizoram appears headed for an electoral battle between two regional parties with the BJP likely to ride piggyback on one of them.

The Congress in Mizoram is a poor shadow of itself. Majority in the party are said to be unhappy with the leadership of former Chief Minister Lalthanhawla, facing several corruption charges.

This has made things a wee bit easier for traditional rival Mizo National Front (MNF), which is "confident" of extending Chief Minister Zoramthanga's reign for another five years. The party, however, is wary of the Mizo People's Conference (MPC) led by former Chief Minister Brigadier T. Sailo.

The MNF and MPC were allies prior to the 1998 elections. The allies won 33 while the Congress managed only six in the 40-member House.

The MPC broke away from the alliance soon after, leaving the MNF with 21 seats, just enough for Zoramthanga to remain in power.

After parting ways with the MNF, the MPC joined forces with Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP), believed to be an offshoot of the MNF formed four years ago.

Political observers in Mizoram feel that the mood has swung towards the MPC-ZNP alliance. The initial trend is, however, not expected to save Mizoram from a hung Assembly, particularly with the BJP likely to add political muscle to the ruling MNF.

Though the BJP is silent on its Mizoram poll strategy, it is buoyed by the fact that the MNF joined the North East Peoples' Forum (NEPF) floated by former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno A. Sangma in November last year. All the NDA partners are members of the NEPF, which also included the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland where BJP is a constituent.

With no major issues before all the parties — they are all unified on ousting the Chakma and Reang settlers — Mandate 2003 in Mizoram is expected to boil down to mere statistics.

Zoramthanga, however, insists that good governance, peace and stability, which "my government has been able to provide", would be the main issues.

As for the Congress, a leadership crisis appears to be more important than the forthcoming polls. Most Congress legislators and leaders have threatened to quit if Lalthanhawla is not removed as the party's state unit chief.

Finally, there's the powerful church, which issues diktats before every election. It's no different this time with the Presbyterian Synod warning political parties of "exemplary punishment" if they fielded candidates with religious bias and dubious track record.

Amongst the major poll guidelines that the church has issued are no-slander campaigns, not using children in the election process and an appeal for low-key electioneering without spending too much money.

First Published: Oct 27, 2003 13:32 IST