Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla’s younger brother Lal Thanzara on Tuesday submitted his resignation from the state’s Council of Ministers and as an MLA over an office-of-profit media expose that alleges he held almost 5 lakh shares in a Delhi-based company the state PWD gave several contracts to. CM Lal Thanhawla was and continues to be the PWD Minister.
Lal Thanzara’s announcement that he has submitted his resignation papers to the CM and the Speaker came just hours ahead of two opposition parties separately releasing documents which show he not only held a sizable amount of shares in a Delhi-based company that worked multi-crore contracts for the state PWD, but that a company he himself owns supplied Rs 22 crores worth of high-protein biscuits to the state’s anganwadi centers through a contract with Mizoram’s Social Welfare Department over the past seven years.
Lal Thanzara, 66, is a Minister of State with independent charge over three portfolios (Health, Minor Irrigation and ICT). He assisted Lal Thanhawla, the CM, in nine others including PWD after he was elevated to the post of MoS following the Congress’ sweep of the 2013 assembly polls. He had been a Parliamentary Secretary the previous term.
Lal Thanzara continues to maintain his innocence and had said earlier that he did not know he had been allotted shares by the company and that he did not receive any money in lieu of these shares from the company.
Announcing his decision to resign in front of party workers at Congress Bhavan on Tuesday, Lal Thanzara said, “I am accused of taking advantage of my being a Minister and of being the CM’s younger brother and favoring a company, which I have denied earlier. Nevertheless, these allegations can embarrass our government and our party, so the only way I can prove that I am innocent is to resign from my post as a Minister and as an MLA”.
He apologized to voters in his constituency, well-wishers and party workers.
The Mizoram Pradesh Congress Committee meanwhile issued a press statement saying it has urged Lal Thanhawla to reject Lal Thanzara’s resignation.
Lal Thanzara’s announcement came just half an hour ahead of a scheduled press conference by the youth wing of the Mizo National Party, where leaders made public several documents sourced indirectly from the Ministry of Company Affairs that shows Lal Thanzara was allotted 4,76,000 equity shares at a face value of Rs 10 per share and a premium of Rs 40 per share in Sunshine Overseas in 2009.
The documents show Lal Thanzara then transferred 76,000 shares to the company’s director, Sanjay Chokhani, and 1,00,000 shares to another person named Saralata Chokhani in 2010. He then transferred the remaining 3,00,000 shares to Sanjay Chokhani in 2012.
Another set of documents shows the company’s income and profits during these three years: the firm’s income rose from Rs 12.55 crores in end-March 2009 to Rs 35.63 crores in end-March 2012. Its profits after taxes rose from Rs 8.54 lakhs to Rs 96.59 lakhs during this period.
According to an investigation by online news portal Scroll.in, which published the expose on June 29 this year, “Sunshine Overseas’ business with Mizoram PWD grew, rising from Rs 6.83 crore (2010-’11) to Rs 24.16 crore (2011-’12).”
The MNF’s youth wing had on August 6 demanded the resignation of both CM Lal Thanhawla and Lal Thanzara over the expose. Its president, K Vanlalvena, on Tuesday said Lal Thanzara’s resignation met only “half” their demands.
Less than two hours after Lal Thanzara announced his resignation, the opposition Zoram Nationalist Party also released documents that shows H P Food Products, an Aizawl-based company owned by Lal Thanzara, supplied Rs 22.34 crores worth of high-protein biscuits to the Social Welfare Department between 2008 and 2015.
The Department, in the RTI reply, said the biscuits were part of the food distributed to anganwadi centers.
ZNP Vice-President K Liantlinga said not only Lal Thanzara but Social Welfare Minister P C Lal Thanliana and CM Lal Thanhawla can be disqualified from their elected positions because of their roles in the office of profit scandals involving H P Food Products and Sunshine Overseas respectively.