Assembly election results 2018: Decoding Congress’s defeat in Mizoram

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Sudipta Biswas | Kolkata

With the Congress’ defeat at the hands of Mizo National Front (MNF) in the state of Mizoram, the entire Northeastern region has become a ‘Congress-free’ zone. While the oldest political party of India regained its footmark in the Hindi heartland, it had to cope with a major blow in the the north eastern state where regional outfit MNF trumped the incumbent Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, by taking a 26-seat majority in the 40-member cabinet. In comparison to their overwhelming 34-seat majority in 2013-2014 state elections, Congress could barely manage five seats.

It was an anti-incumbency wave that swept Congress out of their last North-eastern bastion. After being wiped out of the Hindi heartland by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2013-14 assembly and Lok Sabha elections, Congress took solace by winning the second term in Mizoram under the aegis of Lal Thanhawla.

Congress’ arrogance beefed up public anger

Things have changed upside down in the last five years of Lal Thanhawla’s ten-year-long regime. Public anger beefed up against Congress in the wake of rising unemployment, corruptions and local leaders’ absence in their constituencies. Since voters hardly got the opportunity to talk to their representatives their issues have never been heard at length and solved. When Congress didn’t show an intent to tackle people’s grievances, the relevance of Lal Thanhawla suffered a hefty blow. Hence, riding on the wave of protests and public anger, MNF, led by rebel-leader and two-time Chief Minister of Mizoram, reached out to the people in every nook and corner of the state with a promise to address corruption, unemployment and a wish to take the state to a new height offering them all-round developments.

Such was the anger that Lal Thanhawla lost from both seats- Champhai South and Serchhip- he contested.

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When the arrogant Congress Working Committee didn’t feel to connect with the local leaders they steadily lost their acceptance among the localities. This trend visibly affected their prospect to claim the third term at the state assembly. From winning an overwhelming 34-seat to being reduced to mere five is, nevertheless, embarrassing for the party.

Screening Committee’s observations overlooked

INC Screening Committee, which was constituted before the recently-concluded assembly elections in the five states, sensed there was a wide gap between state leaders and voters in Mizoram. However, their observation on the state Congress was overlooked. They made it clear that if Congress wanted to continue their unbeaten run in Mizoram they have to remove five-time CM Lal Thanhawla from his position and present a new face before the stakeholders of the state to keep their hope of getting third consecutive terms alive. But, the fear that Thanhwla’s stronghold over the party in the state could have forced him to form a new party left Congress with no option but to stick with him. In the meantime, a few Congress leaders parted away from the party and joined MNF in the wake of the chief minister’s oppressive nature of the ruling.

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Churches and NGOs, the main catalysts

MNF, which was thrown out of the government in 2008, worked closely with the Churches and NGOs, who have a strong influence on people’daily life in the Christian dominated state, in order to reach out to the people with their promises and assurances.

Since Church played a pivotal role in bringing back MNF to the power, the rise of Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) also eroded vote-base of Congress. Now, Zoeramthanga has already staked claim to form the government on its own. MNF, which was an ally of BJP in 2013-14 assembly elections, parted away from them to contest the elections as a single political party, sensing their wide acceptance among the voters. However, it is a matter of question whether they would offer a cabinet position to the lone BJP MLA Buddha Dhan Chakma or not. MNF would make a wise decision if they take Chakma along with them as it would ensure them smooth funding from union government, led by BJP’s Narendra Modi.

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While Congress regained their ground in three Hindi speaking states- Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh- their defeat in Mizoram would force them to adapt to a new policy towards the Northeast region. Congress has long been guilty of depriving people of the region of the benefits, ruling them from their backdrops in New Delhi, without measuring the ground reality.

With the 2019 Loksabha elections just four months away Congress must work on their mistakes to re-install the faith among people in the region if they want to dethrone BJP from the union government in the finals of Indian electoral game in 2019.