A poster boy of Congress in Mizoram, four-time Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla is a stalwart in the state politics and has been in and out of power for the past three decades.
Seventy-one-year-old Lal Thanhawla is poised to become chief minister for the fifth time after steering the Congress to retain power. He won from both Serchhip and Hrangturzo today, the two seats he contested. He first became chief minister of the northeastern state in 1984.
From a low-level government official, Lal Thanhawla’s rise in the Congress ranks has been nothing short of meteoric. He has been the architect of each and every electoral success the party has achieved in this hill state after it attained statehood in 1987.
Lal Thanhawla also worked as a journalist for various periodicals. He was Founder-President of Mizoram Journalists Association. He started his career as a recorder in the office of the Inspector of Schools in the Mizo District Council before going on to join the Assam Co-operative Apex Bank as a dealing assistant in 1963-64. During this time, he also completed his graduation from AizawlCollege.
Mizoram -- then a district council under Assam – was undergoing an unrest and the Mizo National Front led by Laldenga was fighting for separate statehood. The MNF was looking for educated young people and persistently wooed Lal Thanhawla to join them.
Although apprehensive of joining a seccessionist movement, he became a member of the MNF and was soon made its ‘foreign secretary’. In 1967, the government arrested him on charges of sedition and he was sent to the Nagaon Jail in Assam, where he remained until his release in 1969.
Born on May 19, 1942 at the PresbyterianSynodHospital in Durtlang near Aizawl, Lal Thanhawla is the president of the Mizoram Pradesh Congress Committee since 1973 till date.
He was first elected to the state assembly in 1978 from Mizoram-Myanmar border Champhai constituency and was re-elected in 1979 from the same seat.
The Congress party defeated the ruling People's Conference led by the then chief minister Brig. Thenphunga Sailo in 1984 when Lal Thanhawla, elected from Serchhip seat became the third chief minister of Mizoram.
After the historic Mizo Peace Accord was signed on June 30, 1986, Lal Thanhawla vacated his chair in favour of Laldenga of the erstwhile underground Mizo National Front leader and was inductd as deputy chief minister under Laldenga in the interim MNF-Congress coaltition government.
Lal Thanhawla was elected again from Serchhip seat in the 1987 assembly polls, but had to sit in the opposition as the MNF won the polls and Laldenga became the first chief minister after Mizoram attained statehood on February 20, 1987.
Laldenga's MNF ministry was toppled by the Congress in September, 1988 and the state was placed under President's rule and fresh elections ordered. Lal Thanhawla returned to power in the 1989 assembly polls when the Congress and the MNF (Democrats) forged alliance and he was installed for the second time as chief minister.
The Congress and the Mizoram Janata Dal led by Brig Thenphunga Sailo (now Mizoram People's Conference) forged alliance and won the state assembly polls in 1993 enabling Lal Thanhawla to continue as the chief minister.
He, however, was defeated in 1998 assembly polls and even lost his Serchhip seat for the first time to a retired engineer K Thangzuala of the MNF.
The MNF ministry led by Zoramthanga, former underground MNF leader and close aide of the late Laldenga, came to power leaving Lal Thanhawla in the political wilderness for five years though he continued to lead the Congress despite a plethora of rebellions mainly due to graft cases pending against him.
He was again elected from his home turf -- the Serchhip seat in 2003 and became leader of the opposition during the second MNF term.