1. What Are the Issues Dominating Mizoram Politics?
With the Congress ruling over Mizoram for over a decade under the leadership of Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, the party is facing anti-incumbency, according to multiple reports.
Several factors have led to anti-incumbency against the Congress in the state. Two issues stand out: the sorry state of infrastructure in Mizoram, and the lifting on the ban on alcohol.
Reports have claimed that the public are growing increasingly dissatisfied with the party as there has been no improvement of roads across the state. Speaking on behalf of the masses, the Minister of State for Road Transport and Highway Mansukh L Mandaviya had earlier blamed the Thanhawla-led Congress for the miserable conditions of the roads across the state. He had also accused the party of neglecting highway development, as well as not utilising the funds sanctioned by the Centre for the sole purpose of improving the condition of the roads in Mizoram.
On the other hand, as this report by The New Indian Express states, there has been a steady rise in alcohol-related deaths across the state, ever since the Congress-led state government lifted the ban that was imposed under the Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition and Control) Act in 2014. This has been a factor that has led a large part of the population to be unhappy with the state government’s decision.
But these two issues apart, agrarian discord has also been another factor that is working against the ruling party. Thousands of farmers took to the streets in protest, demanding land reforms and a newly regulated market system for the "sustainable development of farmers" on 28 September, PTI reported. Considering that farmers make up more than 70 percent of the Mizoram’s population (roughly 11 lakh), their agitation against the state government stands to affect the Congress in the upcoming polls.
Thanhawla's reputation had taken a hit when he was accused of corruption by the Deputy Controller of Mines, Lalhriatrenga Chhangte, of "amassing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.”
In another alleged case of corruption, the Mizoram police had also filed a charge sheet against Thanhawla and two businessmen, when investigations revealed that more than Rs 5.25 crore were 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 a man named Lal Thanzaua.
Another Congress state leader, Lalrobiaka (Dampa), had come under the opposition's radar when his assets grew mysteriously by a whopping 2,406 percent in just five years, the report added.
Rift Within the Congress
Adding to the party's woes, there have been several instances of rifts within the Congress, with several party members reportedly leaving to join rivals. Since September, at least five sitting Congress MLAs have resigned from their posts.
These include R Lalzirliana, Lalrinliana Sailo, Buddha Dhan Chakma, Hmingdailova Khiangte and the latest exit – Speaker Hiphei, who resigned from the party and the House to join the BJP on 5 November. While Lalzirliana and Sailo have now joined opposition MNF, and Chakma the arch nemesis BJP, Khiangte has announced that he would contest the polls as an independent candidate.
The exit of these Congress leaders poses a threat to the Thanhawla-led government, as they may stand against their former party members in the upcoming polls. A report by The New Indian Express quotes a MNF worker hinting that Lalzirliana and Sailo may contest state elections as MNF candidates.
Dynastic politics is rampant in the state. With Thanhawla's concurrent reign, his younger brother Lal Thanzara, who is commonly called the 'de facto CM', is also contesting from Aizawl North-III for the third straight term, according to a report by The Hindu.
The family ties don't end there. Urban Development and Sports Minister Zodintluanga, who is seeking his third straight term from Thorang, is the brother of Thanhawla's daughter-in-law.
Vanlalampuii Chawngthu, who is also the second woman to become a minister in the state, is the daughter of C Chawngkunga, the general secretary of the Mizoram Pradesh Congress Committee, and is seeking re-election from the Hrangturzo seat, the report added.