ZPM's Lalduhoma and the MNF's Zoramthanga are two key candidates in the Mizoram election
The tight electoral contest in Mizoram boils down to two men with completely different backgrounds. One was the leader of an insurgent group. The other was a police officer who served as the security in-charge of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
The former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Lalduhoma, 74, founded the Zoram People's Movement (ZPM) by merging six parties to take on Zoramthanga, the Chief Minister who was a guerilla fighting the Indian military before joining politics.
An NDTV poll of polls on Thursday showed the ZPM getting at least 17 seats and the Congress seven seats in the 40-member Mizoram assembly.
Zoramthanga's Mizo National Front (MNF) is projected to get 14 seats, according to NDTV's poll of polls.
This indicated there would be no clear winner in the Mizoram assembly election. Initial exit polls by Jan Ki Baat showed the ZPM may win at least anywhere between 15 and 25 seats in the 40-member assembly, followed by the MNF with 10 to 14 seats.
The ZPM Factor
Lalduhoma was the first MP to be disqualified from the Lok Sabha under an anti-defection law in 1988, and later also became the first MLA to be disqualified from the Mizoram assembly in November 2020.
He wore several shoes during his police career, including serving as the security in-charge of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1982.
The ZPM has promised the people of Mizoram a "much-needed" change from Zoramthanga's policies, which the ZPM alleged have led to a slowdown in the development of Mizoram.
The Congress has alleged the BJP and the ZPM are getting closer and keeping options open for an alliance if the need arises due to a hung assembly. The ZPM emerged as the second-largest party in Mizoram in the last election after winning eight seats in the 40-member assembly.
Zoramthanga Gives A Fight
Zoramthanga, 79, is a three-time Chief Minister. He has not only sheltered thousands of internally displaced Kuki tribes from Manipur and Myanmar, but has also taken a stand against the BJP government in Manipur led by his counterpart N Biren Singh.
Though the MNF is an ally of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Zoramthanga - citing kinship and familial ties with the Chin-Kuki tribes in Myanmar - has openly given shelter to at least 40,000 refugees who fled from the junta rule in the neighbouring nation.
Zoramthanga has been a veteran of many elections; some he won, some he lost. But this time, he faces a tough four-way electoral battle with many parties in the arena. The Chief Minister, however, is optimistic the Manipur issue will help his party, which was founded by Laldenga, who waged a two-decade-long guerilla war against India for independence for a sovereign Mizo nation until the signing of a peace agreement in 1986.
Zoramthanga became the chief of the MNF after Laldenga died in 1990; the party lost the 1993 assembly election to the Congress, but Zoramthanga won from Champhai seat and became the Leader of Opposition in the assembly.
Zoramthanga became the Chief Minister for the first time in 1998 after the MNF won the state election. Since then, the Congress and the MNF have been in power on and off in Mizoram.