Since 1987, when Mizoram gained its statehood and held its first Assembly election, the northeastern state has only seen two faces from only two parties –Lal Thanhwala from the Congress and Zoramathanga of the Mizo National Front (MNF)– who have been altering as chief ministers every few terms. Voters usually opt for the other government every two terms. However, this time, a third face has emerged as a strong contender in state politics. Enter Lalduhoma – the CM face of the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM).
Lalduhoma is not a new face in Mizoram politics. A retired IPS officer, Lalduhoma served as the security in-charge to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1982. He was also the secretary of the organising committee of the 1982 Asian Games, chaired by Rajiv Gandhi. Working so closely with the Gandhi family, Lalduhoma built an inkling towards politics and wanted to work to change Mizoram’s turmoil-ridden environment. He left the service in 1984 and joined Congress.
Lalduhoma’s rise as political leader
Lalduhoma was entrusted by Indira Gandhi to resolve the Mizo National Front insurgency led by Laldenga, a Mizo separatist and founder of MNF. He met Laldenga, who was in self-exile in London. He is said to have played an instrumental role in bringing peace to the Mizo people and victory to Congress in the Assembly elections that year.
Later that year, Lalduhoma was elected as a Congress MP from Mizoram, but things started turning for him within the party after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. He withdrew his membership from the grand old party and became the first-ever MP to be disqualified under the anti-defection law in 1988.
In 1997, Lalduhoma founded the Zoram Nationalist Party and, in 2003, he was elected as an MLA from Ratu legislative assembly. The party gained prominence among some voters by promising peace to the Mizo people, but it was not enough.
Rise of Zoram People’s Movement
In the 2018 election, Lalduhoma’s ZNM was among the six regional parties that joined the coalition of the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM), and Lalduhoma was declared its chief ministerial candidate. He won the state elections from two constituencies –Aizawl West I and Serchhip– the second being the constituency of then chief minister Lal Thanhawla, which he chose to represent.
In 2020, Lalduhoma, who was the first leader to lose Lok Sabha membership, also became the first MLA in Mizoram to be disqualified for contesting the seat as an Independent candidate.
However, ZPM has won several local elections since its formation and has now come up as a major third front in a typically dual-party battle.
How it’s looking in 2023
This year, the Lalduhoma-led ZPM has emerged as the main opposition of the ruling MNF, which is facing a tough battle due to the ethnic violence against Kuki Christians in neighbouring Manipur. MNF’s alliance with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at Centre, has earned it backlash from the Christian voters of the state who account for 80 per cent of the state population.
Meanwhile, Congress is fighting without five-time CM Lal Thanhawla, its tallest Mizo leader, now in his 80s. His replacement, Lalswata, also a veteran, however, lacks the same charisma and the ability to connect with the Mizo sentiments.
As a result, ZPM is banking on the anti-incumbency factor, with its focus on anti-corruption and the upliftment of the youth and farmers. In an interview with The Indian Express, Lalduhoma said, “The other two parties have been in power for more than 30 years. They have exhausted all their talents and we have had enough of them. People want change and ZPM is the only alternative.”
Elections to the 40-member Mizoram Assembly take place in a single phase on November 7. The results will be declared on December 3.