GUWAHATI: Congress lost its last bastion in the northeast as the Mizo National Front (MNF) made a grand comeback after a decade of Congress rule in Mizoram. The only solace for it was the failure of the BJP, despite loud claims, to break the bastion. It won only one seat in the Assembly elections.

In the 40-seat Assembly the Zoramthanga-led MNF won 26 seats while the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) won eight. The Congress could gather just five. In 2013, Congress had won 34 seats.

Incumbent Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla fared badly as he lost from both the constituencies he contested – Champhai South and Serchhip. He lost Champhai to MNF’s TJ Lalnuntluanga, while Serchhip was won by the ZPM's chief ministerial candidate Lalduhoma.

Internal factionalism seems to have been the main reason for the Congress's downfall.

For the first time in Mizoram, there was a four-cornered contest. Besides the Congress and the MNF, independent candidates under the banner of ZPM and BJP had a fight among themselves.

Though the BJP tried to make a loud entry it failed miserably. The only seat won by the saffron party was by Buddha Ram Chakma, who quit the Congress and joined the BJP just before the elections.

“This is how Congress helped the BJP open its account in Mizoram,” according to Jangkhongam Doungel a professor at Mizoram University.

The downfall of the Congress came because of internal conflicts involving five of its MLAs including former ministers, said Doungel. “And they have won today. Congress denied tickets to 11 of the sitting MLAs. Two former ministers and prominent Congress leaders, who joined MNF, were elected. Another former minister joined the BJP and he too has been elected.”

At the same time, he said that the BJP had no presence in Mizoram, with its slogan ‘Congress Mukt Northeast’ gaining no resonance. “The Congress has lost because of the MNF who have won single-handedly,” Doungel said.

The candidates who contested under the ZPM banner managed to give a good fight and stood second, ahead of the Congress which seems to be on its way out in Mizoram.

“Congress has been in power for long time. So is the chief minister, Lal Thanhawla. So, people needed a change and MNF was the best possible alternative,” senior journalist and political commentator Samudra Gupta Kashyap told The Citizen.

Zoramthanga, a rebel turned politician expressed gratitude to his supporters after the victory and said that his first priority would be to put a ban on alcohol in the state.

The ban on alcohol was partially lifted by the Congress in 2016 by amending an existing act.

“My agenda will be on socioeconomic development. Besides the ban on liquor, I want to focus on improving the roads of the state which are in the ICU,” Zoramthanga told reporters in Aizawl.