Development in Mizoram on vacation under Congress, says former CM Zoramthanga
In its 31-year-history as a state, Mizoram has been governed by either the Congress or the regional heavyweight, Mizo National Front (MNF). As the state votes on November 28, it is again a direct fight between the two parties. With the ruling Congress battling anti-incumbency and desertions, the MNF is confident of returning to power after a 10-year gap. In an interview with Utpal Parashar, former chief minister and MNF president Zoramthanga speaks about the party’s prospects and the issues at hand. Edited excerpts:
How do you assess the MNF’s prospects in the assembly elections?
Everywhere we go, we notice that most voters are in favour of our party. The Congress is battling infighting and five of its MLAs have already left the party. Two of them, including former home minister R Lalzirliana, have joined our party. People are deserting the sinking ship and coming to MNF, the only alternative.
The Congress has been in power in Mizoram since 2008. What is your assessment of the past 10 years under chief minister Lal Thanhawla?
Development is on chutti [vacation] under Congress rule in Mizoram. The state economy is in shambles. Government employees are dissatisfied and the general public hasn’t benefitted. Mizoram has lagged behind other states in several key sectors. The condition of roads in the state is one example - many people say the roads in Mizoram are in the intensive care unit.
Your party has been opposing the lifting of an alcohol ban in Mizoram in 2015. What, in your view, are the negatives of allowing the sale of liquor?
Nearly 6,000 people, including 500 policemen, have died in Mizoram in the past three years due to alcohol-related causes. The quality of liquor being sold is very poor. Lifting of the ban has led to several social problems and there has been a sudden rise in the number of widows. If we come to power, we will ban alcohol, as promised.
What are the other changes the MNF proposes to usher in if you come to power?
We will improve the health care sector and ensure self-sufficiency in food with better policies for farmers. Development in Mizoram is affected due to bad roads. We will focus on ensuring all parts of the state are connected with good and well-maintained roads.
Women’s representation in the Mizoram assembly has been very poor. The MNF list of candidates for the 40 seats didn’t figure any woman candidate. Why is that?
Many people tend to forget that the MNF government in 1987 -- Mizoram’s first government after the state came into being -- had a woman minister. We wanted to give tickets to women this time. Unfortunately, we failed to find any suitable candidate who stood a chance at winning.
The Congress is alleging that the MNF has a secret deal with BJP for the Mizoram polls. Your party is part of North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), the BJP-led anti-Congress conglomeration in the region.
We are a part of NEDA because of our opposition to Congress. That partnership is restricted only to Lok Sabha and doesn’t apply to assembly polls. Both the BJP and the MNF are contesting the polls on their own and there’s no question of any secret deal. Mizoram is a Christian-majority state and voters are not going to accept BJP’s agenda.
How many seats are you confident of winning?
We are contesting from all 40 seats and will cross the halfway figure of 20 seats easily, and attain absolute majority. The Congress will be reduced to less than 10 seats. The BJP will be lucky if it manages to get one seat.