Militant leader-turned-politician, Zoramthangas intense acumenship took his party, the Mizo National Front (MNF), to govern Mizoram, the country’s second least populous state, for a third term. It also obliquely helped the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to accomplish its mission to make a “Congress-mukt (free) northeast”…writes Sujit Chakraborty
Mizo iconic leader and MNF founder Laldenga’s closest lieutenant, Zoramthanga, 74, was elected for a fifth term from Aizawl East-I seat, defeating Independent candidate K. Sapdanga by a margin of 2,504 votes.
The hardworking veteran tribal leader was earlier the Chief Minister of the Christian-dominated northeastern state for 10 years (1998-2003 and 2003-2008).
“Zoramthanga’s firm loyalty for the Mizo cause makes him a acceptable leader both among the young and old age, men and women in Mizoram,” political analyst and academician K.Sailo told IANS.
He said that the Congress government’s 10 year misrule, non-performance and Mizoram’s under development, besides job crisis among the youth, fittingly convinced the people to change the regime.
He was Laldenga’s second-in-command during the secessionist movement in Mizoram and became the successor as party chief, after MNF was recognised as a political party.
After the devastating famine of 1959 and the Centre’s alleged “indifference towards Mizos”, the MNF led by Laldenga “declared independence from the Indian Union” on March 1, 1966.
Zoramthanga joined the outlawed MNF in the same year while waiting for his results in Bachelor of Arts course at the D.M. College under Manipur University in Imphal.
He was also arrested during the clandestine movement.
Zoramthanga accompanied Laldenga to Pakistan and Europe while the MNF was holding talks with the Indian government and was actively involved in the peace parleys.
Coming overground, following the historic Mizo peace accord signed on June 30, 1986, between the MNF and the Centre, he was inducted as a minister in the interim government headed by Laldenga for six months.
He was appointed as secretary to Laldenga since 1969 and as Vice President of the “Mizoram government-in-exile” since 1979 as well as the Vice-President of the MNF party.
When the MNF under the leadership of Laldenga came to power in 1987, Zoramthanga became the Finance and Education Minister.
He was elected as the MNF President after Laldenga’s death in July 1990 from lung cancer.
In the 1998 Assembly elections, the party won the polls and Zoramthanga became the Chief Minister.
In 2017, the politician published his first book on the history of the Mizo nationalism movement in Mizo language and the book was sold out within a week of its release.
Political analyst and writer N. Pachhunga told IANS: “As Zoramthanga is a devoted peace lover, he offered the Central government to negotiate with the underground outfits of northeast India,” he said.
“Zoramthanga had to take a firm pragmatic planning and mission to take Mizoram on the path of growth as the state is lacking behind in adequate infrastructures like roads and power plants. To move away from ‘Jhum’ or shifting-cultivation to settle farming and manage jobs for the educated youths are also a major challenges for the new Chief Minister,” Pachhunga said.
The MNF is a constituent of the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA). However, both MNF and BJP contested the November 28 polls separately in Mizoram.
The MNF had put up 40 candidates and BJP 39, its highest ever.
“Due to Christianity and traditional ethnic conviction, Mizos are very close-knit and deep-bonding society. A party like BJP has no space in such a society. My government would make all-out efforts to further develop the Mizo society and the infrastructure of the state, specially the roads,” Zoramthanga said.
The November 28 elections’ sparkling success came after MNF failed miserably in the past two elections, when its seat tally was reduced to single digits.
In 2008, the MNF lost power to Congress after a 10-year stint and managed to win just three seats and in 2013 polls the party managed five seats.
With a population of around 1.1 million (2011 census), Mizoram is India’s second most literate state (91.58 per cent), after Kerala (93.91 percent).