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Why the MNF lost Mizoram

December 08, 2008

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Coverage: Assembly elections 2008
Congress sinks MNF in Mizoram

The verdict of the Mizoram assembly election dethroned the Mizo National Front after a decade in power. The Congress returns to rule a distress-ridden state suffering from a food crisis and famine in various peripheries.

The return of the Congress to power is the change that has been long awaited. The anti-incumbency factor had stacked up against the MNF. For Pu Zoramthanga, who lost in his home constituency Champhai North and his party, the decade of smooth tongue wagging to save the party failed after they repeatedly did not deliver their promises.

Much before the election, the MNF had been incurring the people's resentment. With the MNF's concentrated focus on power and position alone it left out the people from its agenda.

Much before the MNF lost the election, it broke its economic promises and lost its moral legitimacy. In 2007, the Zoram Kuthnathawktu Pawl, an organisation of distressed farmers, protested in the state capital Aizawl and asserted the need for a change in government. That was immediately followed by another protest that brought together various political parties that went to the extent of demanding President's Rule in the state.

After seeing its support base collapsing, the MNF adventure to win back the people was by carving new districts in Mizoram. Like a gift for the approaching Christmas, Zoramthanga indulged in creating two new districts, Khawzawl and Hnahthial. However, despite the dogged efforts, it was evident that the public was not going to be fooled. If Zoramthanga and his comrades ask themselves why they lost, the obvious answer would be, because governance was weak, and the state delivered a small fraction of what it promised.

The MNF's sophisticated image making did not work with the people. The MNF also failed to see the "wall of separation" between the church and state. On many counts, public policy would often see the light of day after receiving the blessing of the church. However, in winning the men of pulpit, the MNF distanced itself from the larger flocks.

Moreover, the MNF has been accused of colluding with armed groups for the election and even to the extent of creating one, the Sinlung Peoples' Liberation Organisation by recruiting over 200 Hmar boys. The recently leaked videotape of the surrendered SPLO commander-in-chief doing the pre-election rounds in Aizawl nails the MNF's role.

The peace-loving people of Mizoram must have voted against the MNF to retain the prized tag of being the "most peaceful state".

Taking advantage of the MNF's unpopularity, the Congress party, besides harping on the "inefficiency" of the MNF, brought in party heavyweights like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] and Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi's [Images] to campaign in the state. The confidence injected by the visiting leaders helped the state Congress. It also showed the importance of the party that also rules at the centre. In the intricacies of centre-state relations, the dominating presence of the Congress in the centre helped the local party unit.

Moreover, the visiting Congress leaders accused the MNF party of siphoning of central projects and funds. Rahul Gandhi said, "The MNF-led government mis-utilised millions of central funds meant for various schemes and projects, including NREGA, water supply, besides central assistance for controlling rodents." He also assured the people that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government would never allow the Mizos to go hungry. Gandhi blamed the MNF government for failing to tackle the famine despite Rs 1.5 billion that was allocated to deal with the crisis. "If the central funds were properly utilised, the famine situation in the rural areas would not have happened," he said.

Manmohan Singh also blamed Zoramthanga's MNF government of failing on every count -- particularly the education and power sectors. The PM pointed out about the over Rs 3,800 crore grants had been made to Mizoram between 2004-08. He reminded the public about poor utilisation. "If these central programmes are not reaching your lives, it's because the MNF government has failed. Corruption under MNF has shot up," the PM said.

The Congress bagged 29 seats out of 40 with two-time former Chief Minister Lalthanhawla winning from both Serchhip and South Tuipui seats.

The Congress did not over-promise what it can deliver, but stressed the need for a change of the inefficient government represented by the MNF. By voting the Congress, the people of Mizoram have shown that there are willing to take another chance with the Congress. However, the question still remains; will Congress step up to answer the call?

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