Home / Politics / Policy /  A decade on, former insurgent and two-time CM Zoramthanga scripts a comeback

The Mizo National Front (MNF), led by former insurgent and two-time chief minister Zoramthanga, was propelled back to the centre stage of Mizo politics after a decade in the wilderness as it surged ahead in Assembly elections. In 2013, the MNF bagged only five seats in the 40-member Assembly. However, it stood second to the Congress in more than 20 seats, something the Congress would have taken note of even as it won 34 out of 40 seats that year.

With the results so decisively in his favour, Zoramthanga is set to stake claim to the office of the chief minister. The MNF won 26 seats in the 40 Assembly constituencies. Its vote share has also jumped from 28.6% in 2013 to 37.6% now.

This also puts a question mark on the Zoram Peoples Movement (ZPM) experiment, despite it contesting 36 out of 40 seats. ZPM comprises seven smaller parties.

The energetic, talkative and diminutive Zoramthanga, in an earlier interview, had dismissed any tie-ups with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

His party, the MNF, which is part of the North-East Democratic Alliance—the NDA’s North-East wing—has come a long way. It was formed in 1959, when the Mizo hills were part of Assam and the region was hit by a devastating famine caused by the blooming of bamboo flowers that, in turn, attracted rats. The resulting plague and starvation caused many deaths. It was during this period that the Mizo National Famine Front (MNFF), the precursor of the MNF, came into prominence with its role in protesting against government inaction.

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By 1961, the MNFF had reinvented itself as an insurgent outfit that demanded autonomy for the Mizo hills. It was formed on 22 October 1961 with Laldenga as its chief.

In 1966, the MNF launched a major uprising against the Indian government and fought the Indian state for close to two decades. In 1986, then Rajiv Gandhi government signed the landmark Mizo accord with the MNF. One of the terms of the pact was for Lal Thanhawla, who was chief minister, to step down and give the chair to Laldenga. Analysts say the Mizo accord is one of the most successful of all such accords that India has signed with insurgent groups so far, with credit for that going to the Mizoram polity.

Zoramthanga started his career in 1966 when he joined the underground MNF, and in 1969 became secretary to Laldenga—a position he held for the next seven years.

When the MNF formed the government in 1987, Zoramthanga was given charge of finance and education. He was later promoted as party president after Laldenga’s death. He became chief minister after leading the party to victory in the 1998 assembly elections.

This time around, expectations are much higher. The youth, especially, want change in a hurry—jobs, infrastructure and better education, despite Mizoram already being one of the most literate states. Some feel that leaders like Zoramthanga and outgoing 76-year-old Congress chief minister Lal Thanhawla are out of sync with the pulse of the youth. That in itself will pose a major challenge to the incoming government.

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