Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, who first led the Congress to victory in Mizoram in 1984 and has served four full terms at the top post, speaks to The Indian Express about the prospects of his party in these elections and the role of “money power”. Excerpts:
What would you say about the controversy associated with the voting of the Bru community?
Right from the beginning, when they left my state, I have been telling them not to leave. From day one. I sent senior ministers to Tripura to appeal to them to come back because there is nothing to fear. There were anti-social and anti-national elements creating disturbance and I had arrested them. I arrested all the people responsible for the disturbance back then.
Are any vested interests or political parties taking advantage of the unrest due to the protests over the CEO’s removal?
Only anti-Mizos will capitalise on the Bru controversy, no Mizo ever will.
Do you think there is anti-incumbency against you?
Except for the MNF, who is talking about anti-incumbency; neutral people, people like you coming from outside the state, do not talk about any anti-incumbency. No wave, there is not even a wind. Maybe this time, we will win 37 seats. But when that happens, the MNF will say that Lal Thanhawla rigged the elections. He (MNF president Zoramthanga) has said that I have some remote control for rigging elections. I praise the MNF president for rating me so high in engineering, but I am a simple man (laughs).
The BJP is trying to open their account in Mizoram. Congress and MNF leaders say there is a faint hope for the party as Mizoram is Christian-majority and BJP has a “Hindutva line of politics”. What do you think?
I don’t know how much money power will play a part at this moment. But earlier, money power never played a part here. I never wanted to spoil Mizo people with money power. This is the worst thing in an election. And the worst thing for society. So I never encourage my party also, three-four times I have rejected AICC fund for election.
What are you offering people this time?
If you consider GDP, Mizoram stands among the top four states in the country. In terms of per capita income, we are way higher than the national average. Our GDP is more than 8% whereas the national figure is 6.7%. If we win, we will continue NLUP. As and when convenient, we shall convert to NEDP. We plan to move from subsistence economy to market economy. [NLUP or New Land Use Policy Scheme was started in 2008, through which funds of Rs 1 lakh each was provided in instalments to families of farmers, small businessmen or small industrialists. NEDP is New Economic Development Policy.]
Congress saw a number of defections recently. How do you see it?
Defections have made us stronger. Congress workers are happy that they have left. Today, the leaders are happy, ministers are happy because the most corrupt man has left us (former party vice-president and state home minister R Lalzirliana, who left Congress to join MNF).
The MNF has made prohibition a huge poll issue. Your comments?
We relaxed total prohibition to control prohibition. If we win, this will continue…
MNF says it will implement something like NRC in Assam if voted to power.
I don’t think Mizoram needs NRC as of now.