ZPM emerges as big challenger to Congress, BJP, MNF in Mizoram polls

Representational photo. (IANS Photo)

Representational photo. (IANS Photo)

Aizawl, October 31 (IANS): Notwithstanding two prominent national parties – BJP and the Congress – in the fray, the main electoral battle in the November 7 polls to the 40-member Mizoram Assembly is expected to be held between the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF) and the opposition Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM), almost a new entrant in electoral politics in the Christian-dominated state.

Mizoram was previously part of Assam until 1972, when it was carved out as a Union Territory. It became the 23rd state of India, a step above Union Territory, on February 20, 1987 after years of insurgency.

Since 1987, when Mizoram gained its statehood and held its first Assembly elections, the mountainous state has only seen bipolar politics between the Congress and the MNF, first led by Laldenga, and then by incumbent Chief Minister Zoramthanga.
Congress stalwart Lal Thanhwala and MNF supremo Zoramthanga holding the Chief Ministerial post mostly governed the country’s second least populated state after Sikkim.

Just before and after the 2018 Assembly elections in Mizoram, ZPM led by IPS officer-turned-politician Lalduhoma became a major challenger to both the MNF and the Congress.

ZPM, whose candidates had to contest the 2018 Assembly polls as Independents as the party was not registered by the Election Commission of India (ECI), won 8 seats but lost two seats in the subsequent bypolls with party chief Lalduhoma retaining the Serchhip seat in the by-election.

The 73-year-old police officer-turned-politician has also emerged as a leading face as a strong contender for the Chief Ministerial post in the ongoing electioneering.  

“My party (ZPM) would secure a landslide victory in the November 7 Assembly polls, and we would form the next government in Mizoram. This is thousand per cent assured. There is no question of aligning with any other party as we would win much more than the majority number of seats,” Lalduhoma told IANS.

He said the ZPM has already convinced the people of Mizoram that it would give a new system of governance, unlike the Congress and the MNF.

“For the past many years, due to our constant and sincere efforts, we obtained huge public support across Mizoram. As both the MNF and the Congress failed to deliver the goods for the all-round development and welfare of the Mizo people, we (ZPM) happened to be the main political force in the state,” Lalduhoma said.

The former IPS officer served as the security in-charge to late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and held a vital post in the organising committee of the 1982 Asian Games.

Due to his closeness with the Gandhi family, Lalduhoma joined the Congress after he left the service in 1984.

“I was entrusted by Indira Gandhi to resolve the Mizo National Front-spearhead insurgency led by Laldenga. I met Laldenga in London where he was in self-exile. I persuaded him to come to the overground ending the insurgency,” said Lalduhoma, who played a significant role in bringing the MNF outfit to the mainstream and establishing peace in Mizoram.

Due to Lalduhoma’s efforts and at the initiative of former Prime Minister late Rajiv Gandhi, the Mizo Peace Accord was signed in June 1986, ending two decades of strife and insurgency in Mizoram.

Later, Lalduhoma was elected to the Lower House of the Parliament from Mizoram’s lone Lok Sabha seat as a Congress nominee, but due to some internal troubles after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984, he quit the party and was disqualified under the anti-defection law in 1988.

In 1997, Lalduhoma founded the Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNM), and in 2003 he was elected to the Mizoram Assembly from Ratu.
Before the last Assembly elections in 2018, ZNM, along with six local parties, formed the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM), a coalition group which projected him as the chief ministerial candidate.

The veteran Mizo leader in the 2018 polls won from two seats – Aizawl West I and Serchhip – the second being the constituency of then Chief Minister and veteran Congress leader Lal Thanhawla.

However, he kept the Serchhip seat.

During the past few years, the ZPM has performed better in several local elections and has now emerged as a challenging third front in a traditionally dual-party electoral battle in Mizoram.

The ZPM is banking on the anti-incumbency factor of the MNF, with its focus against corruption and the economic empowerment of the youth and farmers.

The Congress and the MNF have been in power for around four decades in Mizoram but they have not done much for the Mizo people and the state, the ZPM supremo said.