Aizawl: In the 12 Lok Sabha elections held since 1972 in Mizoram, a candidate from a non-ruling party has won the state's lone parliamentary seat only twice, in 1980 and 1998. Will 2019 polls be the third time?
The main fight in Mizoram is between young Independent contestant Lalnghinglova Hmar — a 42-year-old journalist and editor fondly called Tetea, who has the support of the Congress and Zoram People's Movement (ZPM) — and C Lalrosanga, a candidate of the ruling Mizo national Front (MNF), who is a retired director general of Doordarshan.
For the first time, Mizoram also has a woman contesting as an Independent. Besides Lalthlamuani, Lalhriatrenga Chhangte, the deputy controller of mines at the Indian Bureau of Mines, is also contesting the Lok Sabha election as an Independent candidate. The BJP has fielded Nirupam Chakma, PRISM, an NGO, nominated TBC Lalvenchhunga.
Young voters are expected to play a key role in this election in Mizoram. The Young Voters' Club, in association with the Chief Electoral Officer, organised a massive campaign on 29 March in the state with the theme "Your vote, your voice" to create awareness about the election among the youth and first-time voters. They are expected to turn out in high numbers for the polls.
Hmar is expected to get a significant chunk of the votes from this segment, being one of Mizoram's best-known journalists and the joint editor of the largest circulated local paper, Vanglaini. A winner of many journalism awards, Hmar is also a football enthusiast. He is an executive member of the All India Football Federation and has put in considerable efforts to promote the game in Mizoram and at the national level — all of which enhances his appeal, to first-time voters in particular.
Speaking at a joint party meeting where his candidacy was announced, Hmar, who has a masters degree in history, said he would promote sports for Mizo youths at both the national and international level. He also mentioned that as a journalist, he had studied the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in depth, and if elected, he will vehemently oppose its implementation.
Mizoram Congress and ZPM strongly endorsed his candidature at the joint party meeting.
"Previous Lok Sabha elections in Mizoram were issue-less elections," said Congress spokesperson Lallianchhunga. "But the 2019 election is going to be different, with the citizenship bill, Hindutva, secularism, cow-related violence, failure of the BJP's electoral promises, and so on. Mizo Christians are going to make the BJP pay for the problems they have faced since the party came to power in 2014."
ZPM spokesperson and leader of the Zoram Exodus Movement Sapdanga said: "There has been a sudden political upheaval in India Looking at Lalnghinglova Hmar's achievements in the world of football, I am sure he will take the youths of Mizoram to greater heights."
Hmar, an honorary secretary of Mizoram Football Association, has strong views against the BJP's proposed Uniform Civil Code. The 42-year-old history graduate believes that the move will pose a grave danger to minorities in the state, and that the BJP poses a threat to Mizo customs and traditions.
This correspondent spoke to the Independent candidate on his contesting the polls and his plans for Mizoram. Here are some excerpts from his interview:
What made you want to be a candidate for the Lok Sabha election?
The main reason is the citizenship bill. BJP chief Amit Shah had said on 17 February that it is the BJP's priority to pass the bill. As I am strongly against it, I decided to contest the election.
I am also at the prime of my life and want to contribute to my state and its people however I can. I am also immensely interested in sports, and if I can win this election, it will give me a stronger platform to promote the youth of Mizoram in various sports.
You often talk about the Uniform Civil Code. What is it about?
During the 1998 election, the BJP manifesto talked about the Uniform Civil Code. If it is implemented, Mizo customs and traditional laws will be removed. This poses a grave danger to minorities.
If you become an MP, what will you do about the Assam-Mizoram border dispute?
I feel that negotiation at the state government level is the only way to settle the dispute, not through violence, as was witnessed last year.
What are your plans to promote sports?
Even without money and very few opportunities, Mizoram is able to attain a good position in sports. As an MP, I'll be able to work better for the people of Mizoram not only in sports but in other areas, as well.
Do you think MNF candidate C Lalrosanga will be a tough opponent?
I do not think that this is a competition between two individuals. Voters know what my principles are and that I stand against the BJP. So I do not have any fear of losing.
C Lalrosanga, a 62-year-old married man with five children and 11 grandchildren, has a bachelors degree in history and completed a course in management from the Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad. He also completed a radio management course from Deutsche Welle Cologne, Germany.
The MNF candidate is also an active member of the Presbyterian Church and is currently the chairman of Wake Up Mizoram, a parachurch organisation. Lalrosanga believes he can improve the state of politics in Mizoram through gospel preaching.
When asked why MNF chose a non-politician to be its candidate, Liansuama, a member of the party's nomination committee, said: "I personally feel C Lalrosanga is among the best candidates the state has. He can win neutral votes."
This correspondent also spoke to Lalrosanga on his decision to enter the political fray and his plans for Mizoram. Here are excerpts from the interview:
What made you decide to contest this election?
MNF's motto is, "Pathian leh kan ram tan", which means "for god and our nation". I support this motto and want to work for god and for the people and State of Mizoram. I believe this is my calling.
Moreover, I am against the citizenship bill, and if elected, will fight it tooth and nail. The MNF government is also against it.
What are your plans as an MP?
I will give my full support to the MNF government within and outside Parliament, but my main priority is to improve connectivity to Mizoram. I categorise this into four parts:
- Road connectivity: The national highway, border areas and interior roads need development.
- Railway connectivity: Mizoram has railway connectivity till Bairabi, which will shortly be extended till Sairang. I want to push this project even further. At the same time, I am concerned about maintaining a strict inner line work permit for non-Mizo workers. If inner line permit is not properly regulated, the Mizo population can be assimilated easily.
- Airway connectivity: Currently, only Air India flies to Mizoram. Airport management and maintenance is also in bad shape, and the runway is not in the best condition for bigger airplanes either. If elected, I will push for more private airlines to fly to Mizoram.
- Mobile and internet connections in the interior and border areas of Mizoram are very poor. I will persuade service providers to bring better service to the state.
What is your opinion on the Assam-Mizoram border dispute?
It is not going to be an easy task to settle this. But if elected, I can use my influence by working towards strengthening the Mizoram government and in negotiating with the Assam government.
Do you consider Hmar a tough opponent?
I don't think Tetea being younger makes him any fitter to contest the polls as I have more experience than any of my opponents. I am well versed with the parliamentary system of governance.
Strong candidates to make Mizoram better
This upcoming election is likely to be one of the most exciting Lok Sabha elections that Mizoram has witnessed. Most believe that whoever wins these polls will have more of an impact on Mizoram as an MP than his or her predecessors.
Young social activist James Lalramdinmawia said all the candidates in the fray this time have immense achievements in their respective fields and are good enough to earn the respect of other MPs .
"Whoever is elected as an MP, I want that person to represent the State of Mizoram to their full capability," he said. "Our MP should concentrate more on nationalism rather than regionalism."
The author is an Aizawl-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters
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Updated Date: Apr 07, 2019 16:06:54 IST