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Mizoram solace for Congress

Guwahati, Dec. 9: The Congress returned to power in Mizoram today, winning more than a two-thirds majority with 33 seats in the 40-member Assembly after yesterday’s setback in four states.

The ruling party’s tally is better than in 2008 when it had bagged 32 seats. This time, the Mizo National Front (MNF) won five seats and the Mizoram People’s Conference (MPC) one. A repoll has been ordered in one constituency because of malfunctioning voting machines, officials said.

Chief minister Lal Thanhawla won from both the seats he contested, a feat he had managed in 2008, too, when the Congress had swept the polls to unseat the MNF.

The result should give the Congress something to smile about after yesterday’s drubbing in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh Rajasthan and the setback in Chhattisgarh. The Mizoram results show the party continues to retain its dominance in the Northeast, ruling five of the seven states.

What could also make the Mizoram win special is that the BJP — which triumphed in the four other states yesterday — drew a blank. The BJP had contested 17 seats.

“I will win both seats. My party will win between 26 and 32 seats, if not more,” Thanhawla, a four-time chief minister, had said last night.

The Congress was engaged in a triangular fight with the Mizoram Democratic Alliance — comprising the MNF, MPC and another party— and the Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP).

The vote for continuity also reflected the growing trend of northeastern states to bring back the party in power. Early this year, the ruling parties were returned in Tripura (Left), Nagaland (NPF of the ruling DAN) and Meghalaya (Congress). The last polls in Arunachal, Assam and Manipur had also seen the Congress retain power.

“It was a vote for good governance. Mizoram should be a role model for other states,” the Congress secretary in charge of the state, Bhupen Kumar Borah, said today.

Lal Thanhawla won from both Serchhip and Hrangturzo. During campaigning, he had said he would retain the seat that gave him more votes. He got 5,719 votes in Serchhip and 5,173 in Hrangturzo. In Serchhip, which he is likely to retain, he defeated the MNF’s C. Lalramzauva narrowly by 734 votes.

Tilting the scales in favour of the Congress was the Centre’s new land use policy under which each family is provided Rs 1 lakh to stop jhum — shifting cultivation common in hilly pockets of the Northeast — by clearing forests. “It helped in the rural areas,” a Congress leader said.

What also helped was the selection of candidates and unity in its aftermath. The Congress had retained all but one of its 32 sitting MLAs.

One of the dropped MLAs, Nirupam Chakma, who is also a state party general secretary, heaped praise on Lal Thanhawla. “We won because our chief minister provided a corruption-free government and we implemented programmes for the poor such as the NULP (the new land policy).”

The Opposition’s strategy of attacking Lal Thanhawla for sporting a tilak during Durga Puja celebrations also did not find many takers in “secular and peaceful” Mizoram, Congress sources said.

Voting in Lawngtlai East, where repolling has been ordered, will be held on Wednesday.