Mizoram Election 2018: Anti-incumbency is not a factor this time, says CM Lal Thanhawla
No party has been able to win three elections in a row in Mizoram. Congress veteran and chief minister Lal Thanhawla, who has been at the helm since 2008, is confident that the grand old party will become the first to do so under his stewardship.
Ahead of the assembly elections scheduled on November 28, the 76-year-old dismissed the possibility of anti-incumbency working against the only Congress government in the north-east.
“There’s no anti-incumbency wind, not to speak of wave. We are quite confident of retaining power,” said Lal Thanhawla, who is the only Congress chief minister at present to also head the party’s state unit.
In the 2013 polls, Congress came to power by winning 34 of the 40 seats in the assembly. But in recent months, five of those legislators , including party vice-president and home minister R Lalzirliana, have left the party to join rivals.
Lal Thanhawla seems unperturbed. “Good riddance. The Congress has emerged stronger (after the five legislators left). Party workers in the villages are much more enthused than before, particularly after the home minister left,” he said.
A political analyst said the Mizoram election would be a two-way fight for power between the Congress and the Mizo National Front (MNF). “The ruling party is facing problems because five of their MLAs left the party . Issues like lifting of ban on liquor, which is being opposed by some, could also affect the Congress. The MNF on the other hand is a facing leadership crisis,” said Jangkhongam Doungel, a professor in the department of political science in Mizoram University.
The Opposition, especially MNF, with which the Congress is locked in a direct fight for power, accuses Lal Thanhawla’s government of trying to influence voters by distributing money through its New Land Use Policy (NLUP), but the chief minister disagrees.
“Our flagship economic programme, by which we help farmers and working class, has helped Mizoram become one of the top four states in terms of gross state domestic product (GSDP),” the five-time chief minister said.
Launched in 2011, the NLUP provides technical and monetary assistance to farmers.
The Lal Thanhawla government’s decision to lift a ban on liquor in the state in 2015 has been blamed by opposition parties like the MNF and Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) for nearly 6,000 alcohol-related deaths—and both parties have promised to re-impose the ban. “The deaths have nothing to do with lifting of the ban. In fact, prior to lifting of the ban, people were dying due to consumption of spurious liquor illegally,” said the CM.
Lal Thanhawla accused the MNF of having a secret deal with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—both parties are constituents of North East Democratic Alliance—to oust the Congress.
The BJP described the comment as irrelevant. “The BJP is contesting from all 40 seats in Mizoram and we are aiming to form the next government,” said Pawan Sharma, BJP in-charge for Mizoram.
In April this year, Congress and BJP formed an unlikely alliance to rule the Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC) in Mizoram, but Lal Thanhawla ruled out such an eventuality if the election throws up a hung assembly. “I completely rule out that possibility. If I am at the helm, it will not happen. I would prefer to sit in the opposition,” he said, adding that the BJP’s coming to power in Christian-majority Mizoram could change the state’s social fabric.