Mizoram Assembly Polls: Mizoram is heading for polls on November 28 in a single phase. Three major parties are pitted against each other — Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Mizo National Front (MNF).
Mizoram has been under Congress rule for a decade under the leadership of Chief Minister Lal Thanhawala. This year, the party contesting from all 40 seats in the upcoming polls.
Mizoram is the only state in the entire Northeast under Congress rule at present. Hence, it is important for Congress to retain power.
However, there are certain issues that the party needs to worry about as the Opposition this time is stronger and leaving no stone unturned to win the state elections.
Unrest within the party
Sources in the ruling party are saying that a massive tussle has been going on within the party over selection of candidates.
Party insiders said the top leadership of Congress wanted to axe some legislators who were too old or had little chance to win. While doing this, the party is also taking great care to ensure that those left out would not be too numerous to form a rebellious lobby, a party leader said.
The move could widen the crack, especially after the recent resignations of home minister Lalzirliana and former minister and sitting legislator Lalrinliana Sailo.
In addition, two Congress leaders recently quit the party to join the MNF. Dr BD Chakma, former minister and a Chakma tribe leader, has recently quit the Congress to join the BJP.
Another challenge the party is facing is anti-incumbency. Some ministers from the ruling party are facing corruption charges. Deputy controller of mines, Lalhriatrenga Chhangte, had alleged Lal Thanhawla of amassing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.
Mizoram police had filed a chargesheet against Thanhawla and two businessmen in connection with a second corruption case. Investigation revealed that more than Rs 5.25 crore was paid from various accounts of the Mumbai-based Eastern Overseas Corporation, which undertook two hydel project construction works in the state, to Oceanic Business Agency, a firm owned by the late Lal Thanzaua, son of the former chief minister, the chargesheet said.
Chhangte had also alleged that the chief minister was constructing a multi-storied building in Kolkata.
Resignation of Lalzirliana
After the resignation of home minister Lalzirliana, Congress fears that more leaders may follow suit. Congress had faced a similar situation in Assam, Meghalaya and Manipur. Considered as one of the most influential members of the Congress party, it is likely that Lalzirliana will join Opposition party MNF.
The Bru refugees who fled from Mizoram in 1997 were once again called back to their home state. But the Supreme Court instructed the Mizoram government to not go ahead with the proposed repatriation process.
There are over 32,000 Brus lodged in six relief camps in North Tripura district.
On July 2 this year, another repatriation of Mizoram’s Brus officially ended. This was the eighth such attempt since 2009.
Lifting ban on alcohol
The state passed the Mizoram Liquor Prohibition and Control Act (MLPCA) in 2014 and it came into force from January 15, 2015. The first wine shop opened in Aizawl on March 16, 2015 and officials said they drew huge profits.
However, there have been reports of increased alcohol-related deaths in the state. The Congress lifted the prohibition which existed before. And the Opposition parties are pitted against Congress over this issue.
In the 2008 assembly poll, the Congress won 32 out of the 40 seats with 39 percent vote share, while the Mizo National Front (MNF) had three seats with 31 percent vote share.
In 2013, the Congress increased both its seat count and the vote share (34 and 45 percent) while the MNF saw its vote share decrease to 29 percent but walked away with five seats.
Although a small state with only 7.68 lakh people on the rolls, Mizoram will be an important battlefield for the Congress where the party will test its ability to hold the only post they currently have in the Northeast.