On Thursday afternoon, in a packed auditorium of Aijal Club, Aizawl, Lalnghinglova Hmar, popular as “the father of Mizo football”, announced that he will contest for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections as an Independent candidate, backed by the Indian National Congress and Zoram People’s Movement.
Raising concerns over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, he said, “BJP president Amit Shah clearly mentioned at a rally in Assam that if the BJP is voted to power, they will put up the Citizenship Bill in Parliament again. I am here, standing in front of you, to tell you that I will fight this arrogance.”
In January, after the Bill was passed in Lok Sabha, thousands of protesters hit the streets in Mizoram to protest the Bill that they felt would endanger the “very existence of the Mizos.”
Though the Bill lapsed in Rajya Sabha in February, it continues to be an important issue this election in Mozoram. “The main issue in this election is the CAB,” says political analyst Malsawmdawngzela Hrahsel.
Fondly called Tetea Hmar, Lalnghinglova Hmar is secretary of the Mizoram Football Association and a journalist by profession — extremely popular amongst the youth, the 42-year-old, had nothing to do with politics, up until now.
“I’ve never thought of becoming a Minister or a member of the Parliament of the central government,” he said, “But, I’ve always wanted a good, young and energetic MP to represent us at the Centre,” he said. Eighty-three years old C L Ruala of the Congress has served two successive terms in the Lok Sabha.
Hmar’s popularity stems from his work in football — an intensely popular game in the state. He not only helped set up the Mizoram Premier League, but also introduced grassroots football in the state, founded the first ever Futsal league in the country and is on the course of introducing women’s football league in the state.
The Congress and Zoram People’s Movement branded Hmar as the ‘People’s candidate’ and said their reason to support Lalnghinglova Hmar is for secularism.
“The INC and ZPM sacrifice their symbol and requested me to fight the contest as an independent candidate.” said Hmar.
Hmar, however, has a strong opponent in the Mizo National Front, the ruling political party of the state. CM Zoramthanga announced 62-year-old C. Lalrosanga as their candidate, a former Doordarshan Kendra director general, well known among the Mizos for his news show on the radio in the 80s. CM Zoramthanga also announced that Zodintluanga, a former student leader, as the party’s candidate for the bye-election to the Aizawl West-I seat, to be held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls. MNF is not allying with any other party. Fifty-four-year-old Lalhriatrenga Chhangte, the first Mizo mining engineer, will contest as independent candidate.
“Even the ruling party in the state, the MNF approached Hmar. For the LS elections, the political parties in the states aim at fielding a well-known candidate, who has a strong link with the public with no political background and is respected by the masses. When Hmar was chosen by the ZPM and the INC, the MNF soon declared that Lalrosanga, who is also very popular, as their candidate,” says Hrahsel.