Will Lalduhoma ever make it to the hot seat?

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Lalduhoma, flanked by two supporters who have pledged to not shave until ZNP comes to power
Lalduhoma, flanked by two supporters who have pledged to not shave until ZNP comes to power. Photo: Zodin Sanga

If opinion polls had translated into votes, Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP) president Lalduhoma would have been the Chief Minister of Mizoram. Despite having topped every ‘who-is-your-favourite-Chief-Minister’ poll in Mizoram since the last three elections, the 64-year-old politician has never reached very close to the Chief Minister’s throne.

Now, with another election just around the corner, Lalduhoma is the most popular chief ministerial candidate yet again, topping the latest opinion poll for ‘most wanted chief minister’ leaving incumbent Chief Minister Lalthanhawla (of Congress) and former Chief Minister Zoramthanga (of Mizo National Front) far behind. Mizoram People’s Conference (MPC) President and former Chief Minister Brig T Sailo’s son Lalhmangaiha Sailo, is at the bottom of the list.

The irony isn’t lost on Lalduhoma, who expressed frustration at being the favourite chief ministerial candidate every time but not translating the popularity into winning the actual title of Chief Minister.

“In a sharp contrast to such opinion polls for favourite chief minister in which I always got the highest votes, my party has always been voted the most unlikely party to form the government,” the Aizawl West-I legislator has said recently.

“This is what has been puzzling me for many years. I don’t really understand why we have never been voted to power despite being the people’s choice,” the former Lok Sabha member said, adding, “I begin to wonder if the people really want good government.”

However, with the day of judgement fast approaching, Lalduhoma feels that the tide might turn in his favour this time. Lalduhoma’s confidence seems to stem from his popularity on social networking sites like Facebook.

Convinced that his time has finally come after “40 years of party governments” as he calls it, Lalduhoma is very hopeful of riding the wave of youth, who constitute 60 percent of the state’s electorate.

His calculation is simple: “Sixty percent of the total voters in Mizoram are youth between the age of 18 and 35, most of whom are Facebook users. And if one is the most popular chief ministerial candidate on Facebook, what else can be expected?,” Lalduhoma said in a television interview a few days back.

Lalduhoma joined politics after giving up his job as an IPS officer to become Mizoram Pradesh Congress president in 1984. He got elected as an MLA for the first time only in the 2003 Assembly Elections from the erstwhile Ratu constituency.

Lalduhoma and Andrew Lalherliana won the election to enable his party ZNP, which he formed as Mizo National Front (Nationalist) as a splinter group of Mizo National Front in 1997, to participate in the state assembly for the first time.

The ZNP managed to retain the two-MLA positions in the state assembly with Lalduhoma getting elected from Aizawl West-I constituency and another ZNP candidate K Liantlinga, from Aizawl South-1 in the 2008 state assembly polls.

Lalduhoma’s political journey has been long, and sometimes rough. After he joined the Congress party, Lalduhoma was elected uncontested to the Lok Sabha in 1984. After an internal rift resulted in his exit from the Congress party, Lalduhoma floated a new political outfit called Mizo National Union in the mid-80s, which later merged with the Brig T Sailo-led People’s Conference (PC) to form the Democratic Party (DP).

As the DP lost elections, Lalduhoma in the mid 1990s tried his luck with the Mizo National Front (MNF), which was badly in need of an able leader following the death of the founder president Laldenga. Lalduhoma soon took over and became a presidential candidate, which however caused a split in the party due to the nomination of then Vice-President Zoramthanga from the floor by the hardcore Laldenga brigade.

Lalduhoma left MNF to form MNF (Nationalist) in the late 1990s, which was later rechristened Zoram Nationalist Party, which he has managed to keep alive till date.

While even the largest regional party, MNF, is tying up with two smaller parties – Mizoram People’s Conference (MPC) and Maraland Democratic Front (MDF) – Lalduhoma’s party ZNP is looking to go the distance alone, making the 25 November elections a triangular fight.

The Aizawl Municipal Council elections in which the ZNP-Congress alliance won 10 seats (five each) of the 19 seats, was another factor that strengthened Lalduhoma’s dream of bringing his party to power one day. Lalduhoma is contesting from two seats, the Aizawl West-I which he currently holds, and Kolasib. ZNP is contesting in 38 constituencies, leaving out two seats – Tuichawng and Palak – in southern Mizoram.

Many believe that the upcoming elections will be crucial for Lalduhoma as it will determine his political future and that of his party. Would ZNP, which has no big strength in terms of membership, survive another five years as opposition? That’s the question many are asking.

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