After leading the Zoram People's Movement (ZPM) to a landslide victory in Mizoram, party chief Lalduhoma, who is set to take over from Zoramthanga as the next chief minister, said the state's youth were fed up with the incumbent, the Mizo National Front (MNF), and wanted a new regime to come in with fresh ideas and principles.
In a freewheeling conversation with ANI on Monday, Lalduhoma fielded questions on the November 7 Assembly elections, the outcome, his vision of development and women's empowerment and the challenges that the new government in the tiny Northeast state. The following are the excerpts from an exclusive interview:
What would you like to say to the people of Mizoram, who gave you victory by such a huge majority?
Our youth are not influenced by party politics are neither are they involved in it. They are free from dirty politics. They were fed up with the prevailing political system that had been in existence from the time of their fathers and forefathers. They wanted to set themselves free from the stranglehold that the prevailing system had on them and install a new regime with fresh ideas and principles. They came out to vote with this expectation.
How would you react to your party coming to power for the first time with an absolute majority?
It was with the blessings of god and the love and affection of the people that we came out victorious in these elections. I am very grateful and appreciative of the people for reposing their trust in us.
Did you expect such a big win?
We knew for the last one year that the people were with us. We sensed the pulse of the public and knew the mood was in our favour right from the campaigning phase to polling day. We knew the voters would put their trust in us.
Who do you think will be the contender for the chief minister's post?
There are no contenders. I was declared the chief ministerial candidate by consensus. The council concerned, which is involved in picking the chief minister, chose me last year. They announced that if the ZPM came to power, Lalduhoma would be the chief minister. The people knew it too since the last year.
What are the issues that your government has to tackle in the coming 5 years?
There are many issues. The government has 44 departments looking into various things and it will not be possible for me to spell them all out in such a short time. I will hold a press briefing after being sworn in as chief minister. I will spell out our top priorities for the coming 100 days at my first press briefing as CM.
You are going to form the government for the first time. Will it be a big challenge?
It will be quite an interesting challenge. We are ready to face any challenges.
When will the swearing-in take place?
The swearing-in ceremony will take place in a week's time.
How would you assess the poll performance of your primary challenger, Mizo National Front (MNF)? Even the chief minister (Zoramthanga) lost.
I would say that the results were on expected lines. Everybody knew that the MNF was going to lose. I don't want to make unfavourable or unkind statements against our chief minister but it is a known fact that he is responsible for his party's defeat.
Mizoram has been grappling with many issues such as corruption, unemployment, and an influx of refugees. What are your plans for tackling them?
The first thing is that we all need to abide by the law of the land. This (MNF) government had been violating all the laws. Most of the government contracts were awarded under a restricted tender system, which marks a direction violation of rules. I am going to stop all kinds of restrained tenders. Not one single restricted tender will be awarded on my watch.
What are your plans for women's empowerment in the state?
The female voters this time far outstripped their male counterparts, which suggests that more and more women enlisted their participation in the process of electing the new government. My government would majorly comprise women and we are grateful to our female voters for coming out in our support. We are committed to uplifting our women and raising their living standards. We will try our best to accomplish this task.
Do you have any specific plans for the overall development of Mizoram?
We have many common interests and problems as well. We have the North Eastern Council to look after us. I am going to have one of the advisors from the NEC as my private secretary. We have many schemes that will be taken up by the NEC and the ministry concerned.
In what turned out to be a decisive mandate, defying some of the pollsters who had predicted a hung House in Mizoram, the ZPM won 27 of the 40 assembly constituencies in the state.
The MNF, which had been eyeing a fresh term at the hostings under the leadership of Zoramthanga, could only bag 10 seats this time while the BJP and the Congress brought up the rear, winning 2 and 1 seats respectively.
Lalduhoma, who won the Serchhip seat, told ANI earlier on Monday that his government would set its top priorities for the "next 100 days" after the swearing-in.
The ZPM, which was formed six years ago through a merger of six smaller outfits, swept the assembly polls, ending the decades-old trend of power alternating between the MNF and the Congress in the Northeast state.
From being in charge of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's security detail to leading the ZPM to a historic win, Lalduhoma's journey has been all about battling against the odds.
His journey as an IPS officer started in 1977. Interestingly, he served as a squad leader in Goa, tasked with cracking down on delinquent hippies and smugglers. His achievements were recognised by the national media.
Lalduhoma quit his job to join the Congress and was elected from Mizoram's lone Lok Sabha seat in 1984. Following his service, Lalduhoma founded the ZPM, a party which, in time, found a firm foothold in Mizoram and grew to become a key player in the state's political landscape.
Earlier in 2020, Lalduhoma faced disqualification as a member of the Legislative Assembly for violating the anti-defection law. However, he made a triumphant comeback, winning the by-election for the Serchhip seat in 2021.
In the last assembly elections, Lalduhoma emerged as the chief ministerial candidate for the ZPM-led coalition. (ANI)