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Mizoram: In uncertain times, candidates contesting from multiple seats

In the 1989 polls, held after a bout of President's rule that prematurely brought to an end the first elected MNF government, quite a few candidates contested from two constituencies

Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty | The Wire 

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When does a candidate contest from two assembly constituencies? The predictable answer would be: when they are unsure of winning a certain constituency. In Mizoram though, the question elicits a different answer: to show the popularity of a leader.

The trend of contesting from two constituencies was started by the celebrated Mizo National Front (MNF) leader Laldenga in the 1987 elections. Right after signing the Mizo Accord with the Rajiv Gandhi government, the rebel leader contested from Aizawl North and Sateek and won from both the constituencies. Since then, the trend picked up in assembly elections in Mizoram only to grow in coming times.

In the 1989 polls, held after a bout of President’s rule that prematurely brought to an end the first elected MNF government, quite a few candidates contested from two constituencies. Of course, Laldenga did it then too, this time from Aizawl North II and Aizawl South II. His footsteps were followed by the former Congress chief minister Lal Thanhawla who contested from the Lokicherra constituency besides his bastion Serchip.

Read our full coverage on Mizoram Assembly Elections 2018 here

Another popular MNF leader, Aichinga, also a minister in the 1987 Laldenga government, contested from Aizawl East I besides Kolashib, his usual constituency. Then there was the case of Brigadier T. Sailo, the president of the People’s Conference who fought from North Vanlaiphai and Aizawl North II. Each was out to prove their popularity among the Mizos in the hustings. While Sailo lost from both the seats, Laldenga and Aichinga could win from only one constituency – Aizawl South II and Kolasib respectively. It was only Lal Thanhawla who won from both the constituencies and since then the veteran Congress leader – now the longest-serving chief minister of the state, going for his third consecutive term in the coming assembly polls – has contested from two constituencies quite a few times, and has always won from both

On being asked about it, the leader said with a smile, “People want me to contest from four, five constituencies, which is not possible. So I always contest from two constituencies. It is people’s wish.” For the November 28 polls too, he is contesting from Champai South besides Serchip.

Following Laldenga’s death in 1990, the MNF leadership went to his lieutenant Zoramthanga. He too contested from two constituencies in the 1998 elections following the trend started by his predecessor. After winning from both Champai and Khawbung seats, he went on to become the state chief minister. It was in those elections that Lal Thanhawla, the state Congress chief since 1973 till date, lost an election (he contested from one seat, Serchip).

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In the 2003 assembly polls, when Zoramthanga was seeking a repeat of the MNF rule, he, in order to reinstate his popularity among the public, again contested from two constituencies – Champai and Kolashib – and won from both. He did in the 2008 elections too but lost from both the constituencies. His political opponent Lal Thanhawla, however, won from both Serchip and South Tuipui, thus wresting power from Zoramthanga and establishing himself as a more popular leader.

In the 2013 polls too, Lal Thanhawla won from both Serchip and Hrangturzo while Zoramthanga, who contested only from one seat, Tuipui East seat, bordering Myanmar, lost. So effectively, Zoramthanga has not only been away from the CM’s office since 2008 but from the assembly too. In these elections, Zoramthanga is contesting from one seat, Aizawl East I, and winning it is crucial for him not just to be back in the assembly but to also try and reclaim that space from his opponent, Lal Thanhawla. On being asked about not having contested from two seats since 2008, the MNF president said, “I am happy this way. It is different with Lal Thanhawla; he wants to be a big leader. Let him be.”

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In the coming polls, yet another candidate who is trying to wrest that position from Lal Thanhawla and Zoramthanga is Lalduhoma, the founder president of the local party Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP). Lalduhoma, the chief ministerial candidate of the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM), a pre-poll electoral alliance of six regional players, is following the trend noticed in the electoral politics of the state by contesting from Aizawl West I and Serchip.

Besides Lalduhoma and Lal Thanhawla, there are six other candidates contesting the 2018 polls from two seats. They are Lianzuala, National People’s Party (NPP) candidate contesting from Dampa and Mamit, Zaichhawna Hlawndo, belonging to Zoram Thar but contesting as an independent from Serchip and Aizawl West I as the party is not yet registered by the Election Commission of India, Vanlalruata, a PRISM party candidate fighting from Aizawl North 1 and Serchip, Lalhrilzeli Hhawando, again from Zoram Thar but contesting as an independent from Lengteng and Aizawl North II, Lalawmpuia Chhangte, a National Congress Party (NCP) candidate contesting from Dampa and Mamit, and Lalruafeli Hlawando from Zoram Thar contesting as an independent from Aizawl North I and Aizawl North II.

“However, most of the other candidates are contesting from two constituencies only because their parties don’t have right candidates,” pointed out O. Henry, a reporter with Mizoram Post.

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First Published: Tue, November 27 2018. 09:39 IST