Millennium Post

Mizoram, a distant dot

Out of the five states going to polls in November andDecember this year, the state of Mizoram is not being reported well in the media. Being a small state, Mizoram is unable to attract attention of political analysts in the national capital.

Mizoram, which literally means ‘land of the hill people’, is one of the seven sister states. The land having hills, lakes and valleys was once part of the Lushai hill district in Assam before it was given a separate status of the district called Mizo Hill district in 1954. It was accorded the status of a Union Territory (UT) in 1971. Mizoram had witnessed large scale insurgency prior to signing of an agreement between Mizo National Front (MNF) and the union government resulting in upgradation of the then UT as the 23rd full state in 1986. The state with around 11 lakh population and over 91 per cent literacy is probably the only state in the country where liquor has been banned. The church which plays the dominant role is also in favour of prohibition. The majority population is, ofcourse, Christian though there are around 8,000 followers of Jews of Bnei Menashe sect, willing to migrate to Israel.

The state was earlier scheduled to go to polls on 4 December 2013 along with Delhi. The church demanded advancing the schedule on the grounds of a big congregation of the Christians planned in the state. The date of polling for 40 member assembly was changed to 25 November 2013 coinciding with the date of polling in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The counting would take place on 9 December whereas in rest of the four states it would take place on 8 December. Mizoram is represented in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha by one member each.

The present strength of the outgoing Assembly is, Indian National Congress (32), Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP) (2), MNF (3), Mizoram People’s Conference (MPC) (2) and MDF (1).  Lalthanhawla is the face of the Congress party in the state.    Sixty-one year old Pu Lalthanhawla was first elected as an MLA in 1978 when Mizoram was a UT with an elected assembly and council of ministers.  He had been a Congressman throughout. He started as a junior level employee in the education department and served as the chief minister in three different stints and served on the post for the longest period in the democratic set up in his state.

He was serving as the CM at the time of signing an agreement with MNF supremo Laldenga in 1986.  Lalthanhawla had to make way for MNF leader Laldenga as per the provisions of the pact. Lalthanghawla led Congress party to power in the last Assembly elections in 2008. The Congress had a clean sweep victory, 32 seats out of 40.

Will he be able to repeat this success? The state with 6,86,305 total electorates and total 1,126 polling booths is getting ready for the poll process. There are 142 candidates for 40 seats; the ratio between the number of seats and the contestants is less than the other states.  The contest this time is going to be different as two opposition parties,  MNF and MPC, have joined their hands together to take on the Congress. They are contesting as constituents of the newly forged Mizoram Democratic Alliance (MDA). Last time the two parties fought together in 1998 and were able to secure 33 seats out of 40 in the Assembly. The MDA and another party ZNP have been raising demand of greater protection and autonomy for Mizos under Indian laws and agreements. On the other side, the four times chief minister, Lalthanhawla is banking upon his government’s welfare schemes.

The change of guard earlier on two occasions in 1998 and 2008 had been due to alleged misrule and irregularities. The church still is in a position to affect the results as prominent church leaders and others have formed Mizoram People’s Form, which is calling the shots on election reforms. The forum is insisting the parties to avoid putting up banners and hoardings and form any association with rebel groups for political gains.  Moreover Mizoram is the only state where the candidates are being encouraged to go for joint meetings. Whether Lalthanhawla would be able to protect his partys’ fortress in the northeast?

The almost nil representation of women in the Assembly is a cause of concern. Out of 142 candidates the number of women candidates is just four.  Mizoram has witnessed only one woman winning Assembly elections since 1972.  This is in contrast to the fact that the number of working women is going up.

Presently 55 per cent women are working in the offices and 77 per cent are controlling the shops and commercial units.

Further they have no right in paternal property and marriage conditions are not favourable to them. Can we expect a better women representation this time?

The author is a communication consultant
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