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Did the land use policy help Congress win in Mizoram
Liberty Institute, India Thursday, December 12, 2013

Abhijit Deb
The New Land Use Policy (NULP) launched by the ruling Congress government in Mizoram, seems to have helped the party in the assembly elections. The Congress came back to power for the second consecutive term outperforming an alliance of regional parties led by Mizo National Front. The Congress bettered its tally to 33 compared to 32 seats in 2008 elections. Abhijit Deb analyses the election scene in Mizoram

It’s a stark contrast. On one side a three term old congress government was routed in the nerve center of power-Delhi on anti incumbency factor, on the contrary, a state farthest from it, Mizoram, the party was voted back to power on pro-incumbency wave, riding on a pro-poor land reform policy.

Political analysts are giving credit to the New Land Use Policy (NULP) launched by the ruling  congress government in the state which did the trick for the party in the assembly elections, where it came back to power for the second consecutive term outperforming an alliance of regional parties led by Mizo National Front. The party bettered its tally to 33 compared to 32 seats in 2008 elections.

In the tiny Christian-dominated state, where election is considered to be the cleanest, with church playing the role of a strict watchdog, the principal opposition party Mizo National Front ( MNF) along with its alliance partners Mizo Peoples Conference ( MPC), and Marland Democratic Front (MDF), failed to put up an impressive show of united strength of regional parties.

In the Nov 25 Mizoram assembly elections, the ruling Congress swept 33 of the 40 seats (one seat more than in the outgoing house), leaving five seats to the opposition Mizo National Front (MNF) and one for the Mizoram People's Conference (MPC).

In 2008 assembly elections MNF won 3 seats, MPC 2 and Marland Democratic Party 1 and Zoram Nationalist Party 1.

While the national issues such as corruption, inflation weighed heavily on the Congress party in other four states which went to polls, contrary in Mizoram a predominantly, agricultural dependent state, welfare schemes of the party strike a chord with the electorate, unlike  Rajasthan where party suffered its worst defeat despite  showering  citizens  with number  of welfare schemes.

It is Congress' fourth electoral victory after Mizoram attained statehood in 1987, following the signing of the historic 1986 Mizo Accord between the Centre and MNF led by the legendary Pu Laldenga.

Notably, this time the president of MNF party and former chief minister Zoramthanga lost his East Tuipui seat. The MNF chief lost his seat to Congress' T Sangkunga, a retired government employee.

Whereas, Lal Thanhawla state PCC chief, who will assume the chief minister's office for a fifth term, won from two assembly seats -- Serchhip and Hrangturzo (both in central Mizoram) -- defeating his MNF and MPC rivals respectively.
The loss of rebel turned politician Zoramthanga also signaled the falling popularity of his party which has always caught the imagination of the people in the state.Subsequently, it went on to win assembly elections in 1987, 1998 and 2003, but lost to the Congress for two consecutive terms, including this election indicates that the tide is turning towards the issues of development.

MNF president, Zoramthanga, formed a three-party opposition alliance comprising the Mizoram Democratic Alliance (MDA), the Mizoram People's Conference (MPC) and the Maraland Democratic Front (MDF), but it was not strong enough to take on the Congress led by chief minister Lal Thanhawla.

Besides, another regional party, the Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP), played spoilsport.

All eyes were on the ZNP this election, led by former IPS officer Lal Duhoma. But in real terms, the ZNP became a mere vote divider paving the way for an easy win for the Congress. Though social media saw the emergence of the ZNP as a larger third front in Mizoram, political analysts felt they were just a nightmare for the MDA and nothing more.

"The ZNP wave was there, but too weak to contest the established parties. However, the small share of vote it managed was good enough to disturb the Mizoram Democratic Alliance's concentration of votes. The bigger the ZNP wave, the bigger the margin of the Congress victory," said a political analyst.

The ZNP has formed a partnership with the Congress in the Aizawl Municipal Council, but they decided to go it alone in the assembly polls.

(ZNP) is a political party came to existence as a result of  Lalduhoma’s factions split from the MNF.  In both 2003 and 2008 state elections, ZNP party won 2 seats, however this election it couldn’t even open its account.

Out of the 38 seats ZNP contested, the party came second in two seats, while in rest of the seats it managed to get a vote share within range of 15-28 per cent, virtually eating into the vote share of MNF and other local parties.

If we talk about the vote share of the parties, MNF it appears that the party is steadily losing its support base with 31 per cent vote share in 2003 it came down to 30.65 in 2008 elections, and this time around with only five seats in its kitty the figure remained more or less the same.

While congress increased its share of vote percentage marginally increased to 33 per cent compared to last assembly elections, the swing of around 2 per cent of votes in the favor translated into winning seats.

Though NULP scheme was used as a trump card by congress in this election but, in last assembly elections in 2008, other than the land scheme, the anti incumbency factor which bought the party back to power after 10 year rule of Mizo National Front ( MNF).

No doubt, the Congress's pilot project, the New Land Use Policy (NLUP), has also played a key role in the victory, felt many including the opposition. The Rs 2,800-crore project had covered 1.35 lakh familes across the state and was expected to bring about a sea-change in rural economy.

"I cannot say if NLUP can bring about an economic change for poor farmers, but it has benefitted many in rural areas," said R Lalthangliana, the vice-president of MNF.

The assembly election saw a high turnout of 81 per cent. In a state where there are more women voters than men, all six female candidates lost the polls.

This article was published in the Liberty Institute on Thursday, December 12, 2013.
Author : Mr Deb is a journalist based in Shillong, in the North Eastern state of Meghalaya.
Tags- Find more articles on - land use policy | Mizoram | Mizoram election | Mizoram NULP | NULP

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