The five-time Chief Minister of Mizoram, Lal Thanhawla is at his best again ahead of the next assembly elections. Soon after swearing in as the Chief Minister on 14 December 2013, he announced that this term would be his last innings. However, in order to stop infighting within his party, he had retracted his statement.
He now hopes to win the Assembly elections in 2018 knowing fully well that the Congress is no longer in power at the Centre while the Bharatiya Janata Party has already toppled the Congress governments in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur in the North East. Moreover, crippled by corruption charges against the government and the failure of the key programmes including the New Land Use Policy, the popularity of the current government in Mizoram is at its nadir.
Qualification of Chakma students for medical seats is a God-sent opportunity!
The qualification of four Chakma students under the NEET (this is the indeed the first time that the Chakma students obtained high ranks in Mizoram) seems like a God-sent opportunity.
Lal Thanhawla, the former Foreign Secretary of the Mizo National Front, has a special place in the heart of the Mizos for resigning as the Chief Minister in 1986 to make way for his former boss in the MNF, Laldenga to become the Chief Minister following the signing of the Mizoram Peace Accord. How much his resignation had to do with his own intention or pressure from then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi for the success of the Mizoram Accord is a matter of speculation. But, he knew it fully well that the MNF will not be able to withstand Congress machinery. Soon, he returned as Chief Minister in 1989.
He lost the elections in 1998 and Zoramthanga of the Mizo National Front ruled until 2008. Lal Thanhawla was back in the game. His lieutenants in the Autonomous District Councils formed “Lai, Mara, Chakma UT Demand Committee” for the territories already under their control. It is another matter that except then Congress leaders in the ADCs, none of the Lais, Maras and Chakmas ever demanded Union Territory to be curved out of Mizoram.
The issue of NEET is a God sent opportunity because Lal Thanhawla seems to have trapped both the Mizo National Front (MNF) and the Zoram National Party (ZNP). Zoramthanga of the MNF and Lalduhoma of the ZNP without deeper analysis jumped into the trap of the Mizo NGO leaders who see the entire issue in black and white terms as between the Mizos and Chakmas. Both Zoramthanga and Lalduhoma declared that they will not put Chakma candidates in the next Assembly elections. Considering that the MNF and ZNP do not have strong base among the Chakmas, the declaration was electorally fine but strategically wrong. Mizos will remember Lal Thanhawla as the Chief Minister who denied MBBS seats to the Chakmas despite being Scheduled Tribes and both Zoramthanga and Lalduhoma have no means to match him on that. By accepting the resignation of the lone Chakma Minister Dr B D Chakma, he has ensured his victory on the Mizo nationalism without any further questions.
On 27 August 2017, Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla laid his game plan on the floor. As The Mizoram Post reported on 28th August 2017, while addressing the Congress Party session in Lunglei, Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla stated that “We should think whether or not targeting at or going against all Chakma people is logically right and best thing to do”.
This statement should make Chakmas happy. It will not matter even if Lal Thanhawla had just targeted all the Chakmas (four Chakma students) by excluding them from counselling under the NEET even though he has been told by Chakma leaders that these students are born and brought up in Mizoram and the parents of the students have been serving with the Government of India including Defence Forces. I can tell that Chakmas are very happy with this part of his statement.
Forcing the MNF to severe ties with the NEDA and the BJP so that it cannot match Congress machinery and resources
Thereafter, Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla addressed the Mizo sentiments. As The Mizoram Post on 28 August further reported, “Citing that the BJP led central government does not give importance to the Christians, Lal Thanhawla said the Mizo should behave and take action meticulously as the Christian and Muslim are not included among the religious minorities accepted or give importance by the BJP led central government. It is very scary and apprehensible that the central government will provide Union Territory to the Chakmas and administered them directly”.
This plays deep into the heart of the Mizos who remain apprehensive about stupid beef ban policy of the BJP. It plays into the psyche of the Mizos who shall never give an inch of Mizoram like all other States whether West Bengal (Gorkhaland) or Assam (Bodoland) or Tripura (Twipraland). Mizos after reading THIS MISLEADING statement will play into his fear mongering. The fact that no Chakma in Mizoram has ever demanded or is demanding Union Territory will not matter. The fact that the demand of “Lai, Mara, Chakma UT Demand Committee” was flagged off by the Congress leaders when MNF was in power in Aizawl will also be forgotten.
In the same meeting, Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla came back to hit out at the main opposition, the MNF. As The Mizoram Post on 28th August 2017 reported: “Hitting out at the opposition MNF Lal Thanhawla said although it (MNF) had declared that it would go alone in the upcoming assembly elections, it is a constituent of NEDA which support the BJP at the centre”. He further pointed out, “MNF is the Constituent of NEDA which is the main organ of BJP. I think MNF will vacate some constituencies for BJP which may include constituencies dominated by the Chakmas”.
With this statement, Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla is forcing the MNF to severe relations with BJP knowing fully well that the MNF alone shall not be able to match Congress machinery and resources. Considering that former lieutenant like Nirupam Chakma holds State Vice President in the BJP, even if there is no electoral alliance between the MNF and the BJP, he has successfully planted questions in the minds of the Mizos on the MNF for its relations with the BJP.
Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla: No courage to ask for vote for his performance and therefore, polarises the Mizos and the Chakmas
It is clear that Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla does not want to go to forthcoming Assembly elections on the performance of his government. He also believes that with the re-election of his brother Lal Thanzara in the bypoll to Aizawl North-III Assembly on 24 November 2015, all the corruption charges as reported by The Indian Express and Scroll.in have been forgotten by the Mizos.
Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla wants to go to forthcoming Assembly elections by polarising the Mizos and the Chakmas on which the MNF and the ZNP have already been trapped partly by playing into the hands of socalled NGOs whose worldview is a contest between the Mizos and Chakmas. Ethnopolitics is not State-running politics and only Lal Thanhawla appears to know the State-running politics.
There are 40 seats in the State Assembly and only in two seats, Chakmas are majority. It will not be an understatement to say that many Mizos do not even know how the Chakmas look like, what is their culture, features etc and for them, the relations with the Chakmas is not a day to day issue or governance issue. If the MNF and ZNP make Chakma issue or any other minority issue as the election agenda, they play into the hands of the Chief Minister who did not have the courage in his address at Lunglei to ask for vote or for his re-election on the basis of the performance of his government in the last 10 years to improve the conditions of the Mizos.
It is for the MNF and the ZNP to decide as to how to come out of the trap that they have jumped into. Can development, governance and poor financial health of the State become the main electoral issues rather than the Chakma-Mizo relationship who have more or less have the same characteristics being tribals and people of the same racial stock (Tibeto-Mongoloid)?