Mizoram's richest candidate campaigns on foot

Mizoram's richest candidate campaigns on foot

A day on the campaign trail

The 51-year old millionaire businessman, who owns Aizawl FC that bagged the I-League title in 2017, says he is following an "eco-friendly" campaign without any hullabaloo or sloganeering.

He is the richest candidate in Mizoram's assembly elections with declared assets of Rs 55 crore, owns a popular football club and has a fleet of luxury cars, but Mizo National Front (MNF) leader Robert Romawia Royte says he wants to keep his electioneering modest with a door-to-door campaign on foot.

Royte, the main opposition party's candidate from Aizawl East-II constituency in the state, is a first-timer in assembly polls and is fighting from a seat where the ruling Congress has fielded veteran leader and incumbent finance minister Lalsawta.

The MNF leader had unsuccessfully fought the Lok Sabha polls in 2014 as an independent candidate.

The 51-year old millionaire businessman, who owns Aizawl FC that bagged the I-League title in 2017, says he is following an "eco-friendly" campaign without any hullabaloo or sloganeering.

Mizoram will go for polling on November 28 to elect the representatives for the 40-member assembly, while the counting scheduled for December 11.

Starting with a meeting with his supporters at 6:45 am in the house of an MNF cadre at Dawrpui locality of Aizawl city on Wednesday, Royte held a prayer before going out to woo the voters.

The campaign team, an equal mix of both genders, carried a small packet of cards, similar to the size of a visiting card, that had Royte's name as the MNF candidate from the constituency and nothing else. The team carried no flags, no posters, no loud speakers and went door to door on foot, unlike the common sight of bike rallies in these elections.

Royte, carrying a packet of cards himself to distribute among voters, said he favours "a non-corrupt way of campaigning" and is not trying to influence voters by any other means.

The first house was of school teacher Lalruatdika, to whom Royte handed over a card and requested for two votes from his family.

Because of the hilly terrain of Aizawl, each house is constructed in a unique way that has 3-4 floors below the ground level, while a similar number of floors are built above ground also.

This means that to meet all the residents in a building, one has to climb 5-7 floors up and down without any lift, and Royte was seen religiously following the drill.

This terrain also leaves use of cars or bikes less effective while campaigning.

"I want to campaign in a clean manner. I restricted all my campaigners from telling anything negative about my opponent. We are against the Congress party, but not against the individuals. Attacking them personally is not good," Royte told PTI while continuing his door-to-door campaign early morning.

The football enthusiast, who owns Mizoram's first sports car worth Rs 50 lakh and runs a construction company, shook hands with everyone on his way including vegetable and fruit vendors in the local market of the area.

As the campaign team stopped at a small shop at around 8 am to have cup cakes and fruit juice for breakfast after covering around 20 houses, Royte said, "As a new entrant, I am very committed and determined to fight dirty politics."

"Allegations, mud throwing -- these are very bad. Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati -- all are using filthy languages. It is affecting the image of Indian democracy," Royte said while sipping the juice through a straw.

After this brief stopover of 15 minutes, Royte was back at covering more houses and said he is telling the people about his achievements and personal works.

"They know me because of my works. Now, I am more popular because of Aizawl FC," he said.

Roytel was declared the Mizo of the Year in 2012 by Lelte magazine and also received Sports Club of the Year award last year for Aizawl FC from the Vice President Venkaiah Naidu in Guwahati.

"Since I joined MNF on September 17 this year, over 3,000 Congress workers have joined our party. Lalsawta won this seat for two consecutive terms, but this time he will surely lose," Royte said about his rival candidate.

In the 2013 assembly polls, Lalsawta had won the poll by a margin of just 177 votes over the then MNF candidate Sailothanga Sailo.

Talking about the party, Royte said the MNF is surging much ahead of other parties and will form the next government.

The Congress has been in power in Mizoram since 2008 and is eyeing the third consecutive term. In 2013 Assembly elections, the Congress won 34 seats, while the MNF had five and Mizoram People's Conference bagged one.

Congress and MNF are contesting in all the 40 constituencies this time, while the BJP is fighting in 39 seats with an aim to open its account for the first time in Mizoram.

After covering nearly 35 houses till 10 am, Royte rushed to a radio station for a pre-fixed interview. The door-to-door campaigning resumed in the afternoon at 3 pm with a different team at Armed Veng area of Aizawl, which continued till around 6 pm after which the team members left for their church services and prayers.

Post-dinner, Royte held a meeting with his supporters and took the day's feedback. The door-to-door campaigning touched around 80 houses during the day.

The supporters dispersed for their respective home at around 11 am, to meet again the next morning for another day of the door-to-door campaign in a new locality.

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