The first non-Congress, non-Mizo National Front (MNF) government in Mizoram took charge on Friday with the swearing-in of Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) leader Lalduhoma as the chief minister and 11 of his ministerial colleagues.
Mizoram, which has 12 ministerial berths including that of the chief minister, also continues to be the only state in the Northeast where the BJP is not in power — on its own or in alliance.
Like the ousted MNF, which took turns with the Congress to head the state government since its formation in 1987, the ruling ZPM had also asserted it would have no post-poll truck with the BJP even if it fell short of a majority. The party won 27 seats in a House of 40.
The BJP, which won two seats, had expressed its desire to support any party in the state except the Congress in Mizoram’s interest.
However, chief minister Lalduhoma dashed any hope the BJP may have harboured by filling up all 12 ministerial berths, which included a woman minister, Lalrinpuii, the third since 1987.
Mizoram governor Hari Babu Kambhampati administered the oath of office and secrecy to Lalduhoma, 74, and the other ministers at the Raj Bhavan. All the 12 ministers are first-timers.
Among the 27 winning ZPM MLAs, 20 are first-time MLAs.
In all, there are eight cabinet ministers and four ministers of state. The distribution of portfolios was also announced on Friday.
Lalduhoma, a former IPS officer-turned-politician who had been part of the Congress and then MNF in his political journey of over 38 years, kept six departments with himself including finance, planning and development, vigilance, law and judicial, general administration, political and cabinet departments.
K. Sapdanga, the ZPM deputy leader and the second in command, was allotted four departments — home, urban development, personnel and disaster management — while woman minister Lalrinpuii would look after three departments — health, tourism and social welfare.
Lalthansanga, the man who defeated Zoramthanga, got environment and forest, sericulture, fisheries and land resources and Vanlalthlana would look after school and higher education, taxation, publicity and communications technology.
The other cabinet ministers are C. Lalsawivunga, Vanlalhlana, P. C. Vanlalruata, while the four ministers of state are F. Rodingliana,B. Lalchhanzova, Prof. Lalnilawma and Lalnghinglova Hmar.
Lalduhoma’s immediate predecessor Zoramthanga, 79, of the MNF and the one before him — Lalthanhawla of the Congress, were present at the swearing-in function.
Zoramthanga and Lalthanhawla had held the reins of Mizoram in turns since it attained statehood in 1987.
Addressing the media, Lalduhoma said his first 100-day priority would include putting in place austerity and economic measures to improve the state’s financial health and scrap the MNF’s Socio Economic Development Programme (SEDP), whose allegedly tardy implementation became a poll plank.
The first-time chief minister’s priority also included steps to resolve the boundary problem with Assam and check corruption by ensuring transparency and farmers’ welfare.
BJP state president Vanlalhmuaka had said they wanted to work with any party in the state except the Congress, but now they would sit in the Opposition.
The MNF had also kept the BJP out of the government since 2018 despite being an ally of the BJP-led NDA.
Political observers say this is because the Christian-majority state is unhappy with the “growing harassment of minorities under the BJP-led regime” at the Centre.
The BJP is a minor player in the state and there is concern over the way the BJP-led central and state government have handled the unrest in neighbouring Manipur. The Kuki-Chin people share the same ancestry as the Mizos.
A couple of days ago, Lalduhoma had said the ZPM would continue to help the refugees from Myanmar and the internally displaced people from Manipur, signalling the continuance of the MNF policy towards the affected from neighbouring Myanmar and Manipur.
Cutting across party lines, Mizoram has been supporting the refugees and internally displaced people, almost on its own.