Can Lal Thanhawla hold Congress fort?

Can Lal Thanhawla hold Congress fort?

Lal Thanhawla

"I will hold the fort," Mizoram chief minister Lal Thanhawla keeps repeating since the date of Assembly elections was announced for Mizoram, Congress' last bastion in the easternmost corner of the country.

The 76-year-old Mizo politician refuses to be bogged down by the desertion of at least five senior MLAs including two ministers and the Speaker just before the November 28 elections. Neither does he agree to the possible anti-incumbency his 10-year-long government may face.

"There is no anti-incumbency among the people. In fact, they will vote us more this time. We will cross our previous number of 34 seats and may get 37 this time," Lal Thanhawla told reporters in Aizawl. The Mizoram Assembly has 40 seats.

The veteran politician faces a straight fight against his former colleague in the Mizo National Front (MNF) and two-time chief minister (1998-2008) Zoramthanga, whom he is continuously accusing of having a 'secret understanding' with 'Hindu BJP.' This may score political points for Lal Thanhawla in a state with 97% Christian voters.

Lal Thanhawla, a graduate in arts and a music lover had joined the violent Mizo Uprising of MNF in 1966, in which the Union government had to use air force to make the rebels led by Laldenga surrender and "take the path of democracy (election)".

Lal Thanhawla left the MNF and joined the Congress next year. He is eight-time MLA since 1979 and five-time chief minister.

The veteran Congressman is also facing Opposition heat over his withdrawal of prohibition on liquor in Mizoram and alleged misuse of central funds.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi, however, was fully supportive saying the state registered 14% growth rate under Lal Thanhawla, which is highest in the country.

"Horticulture grew by 45% and new land use policy benefitted 1.68 lakh people. The unique culture, language and history of Mizo people are safe under Congress rule. But the MNF is trying to give the keys to BJP to destroy them. The BJP and the RSS want to impose only one ideology," Rahul said in a rally in Aizawl.

Lal Thanhawla's success to hold the fort will not just pour waters on BJP's target of a 'Congress-mukt Northeast' but will be a first in Mizoram hat-trick for a chief minister.

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