No electorate in India has exhibited toughness and resoluteness as strong and unrelenting as the voters of Mizoram have done in the past decades. While giving their political masters a longer rope than the mandatory 5 year term to prove themselves worthy, the Mizoram voters have mercilessly booted them out, turning non-performing powerful parties to a bedraggled posse of has-beens at the end of two terms.

As they have done now in 2018 dwarfing the powerful Congress party with an all encompassing 34 seats in a house of 40 to just 5. Not only that, the voters seem to have a thing about party presidents and chief ministers as they have been wont to strip them of all vestiges of power as they did to the just voted out two-terms chief minister Lalthanhawla. He contested from two constituencies both of which he lost. It is a sad end to a towering personality that was synonymous with the state of Mizoram for decades.

Not too long ago, the Mizo National Front (MNF) was given a similar drubbing, when in 2008 their two ruling terms led by Zoramthanga, the same man now voted to power again, was kicked out lock stock and barrel by the electorate leaving the once then muscular MNF party a whimpering rump of its former self with just 3 legislators reduced further in the 2013 elections to 2. The party president Zoramthanga had to eat crow then just as Lalthanhawla is exiled to do now.

Many voters spoken to reveal that they are ‘happy that the Congress lost”. The Lalthanhawla government has been dogged by controversies and scams, even prompting at one point of time, the resignation of his brother and virtual second in command in the Congress government, Lalthanzara, to resign after he was accused of massive corruption in a social welfare etc departments swindle.

Mid-term elections was soon declared in his constituency. He was again made the Congress candidate and won back his seat proving electorally that he was above board instead of going through an investigation. That was power-gone-to-the-head. An arrogance not easily forgotten by the electorate, it seems. That both brothers lost this hustings is a signal that the Mizo electorate knows, sees and acts at the appropriate time.

The lack of development, bad roads, farmer’s woes and the many arrogant remarks of the CM had angered the public many a time. The memes and comments passed around smoothly and widely on social media also helped amplify the discord turning it into anti-congress votes. Particularly, seething were the hill-farmer producers under the title Mahni Thlai Thar Zuar Pawl (MTTZP) who, in the course of a meeting with the Agriculture minister of the just voted out Congress Government, H Rohluna, to beg him to allow them to sell their produce in the city markets without being driven out mercilessly, had instead been deeply hurt by his haughty remark. He told them that “they should just unload their produce in the city outskirts and sell them to the middlemen to avoid further problems.” This insensitive comment cost the Congress dear as the story spread and a silent resolution was made then even by staunch Congress supporters to have no more truck with them.

But then people are not exactly jumping with joy that the MNF won either. “It’s only because we had no alternative they came back,” said Liana, a businessman about town in Aizawl. He further went on to say that the alternative provided by the Zoram Peoples Movement (ZPM) took too long to get its act together before the polls. This was a last minute platform of the Mizoram Peoples Conference (MPC), the Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP) and a mushroom of little organizations that crop up under the heat of every approaching election season.

But what the ZPM did do was to help the MNF win by swinging away key disaffected votes from Congress party in many constituencies. As for the MNF, their core vote bank remained intact; what with the drought of 10 years in the political wilderness making them cling together for survival with the knowledge that this was the only way to win and to quench their deep thirst for power and control along with its spoils.

One of the positive outcomes though is that the state will have a strong Opposition in the form of the ZPM. ZPM went to polls as independents. It has 8 legislators most of whom are highly qualified persons and veteran politicians. People have high hopes that they will make a difference to the governance in the state. For the past two decades, the state has had no Opposition worth its name, with the party in Government freed from the fetters of democratic checks and imposing a kind of monarchial rule on the majorly submissive and timid Mizo populace. Hopefully the ZPM performance will perform its duty to call out the wrong doings of the rulers and thereby form the core of a future alternative, they said.

But even as this new party emerges into the scene, the MPC, once one of the most powerful parties in the state, founded by Brigadier T Sailo during the height of the Mizo nationalist movement in 1975, has quietly been discarded by the people into the dustbin of history. Its president, Lalhmangiaha Sailo, son of the Brigadier, lost the elections which he had fought under the banner of the ZPM. The just closed assembly term had one solitary MPC legislator who in the last hours of the term joined another party.

To focus back on the MNF, they won not because they are a great alternative. For many it is still a tainted party with its leader, Zoramthanga, now chief minister in waiting facing charges under the Anti-Corruption laws, and many of its senior leaders shadowed by infamous scams called BAFFACOS, Tuirial hydel power project land grabs, to name a few. It is obvious from the ubiquitous social media posts that these scams are not forgotten because even as the Congress list of scandals do the rounds on social media, it is closely followed by the MNF’s own list of past infamy.

But during the years in the political purgatory the party leaders have been doing nothing but praying for forgiveness for their sins from the public. In fact, when they kicked off their poll campaign last September, the chairman of the MNF Campaign Directorate, ex-minister, Tlanghmingthanga had couched their penitence in terms of Christian symbolism saying that they were a “born again” party and had repented their sins, especially seeking forgiveness from the members of the erstwhile underground members who were mistreated by them while in power. He also said that he and the MNF leaders would now “unerringly strive to walk under the guidance of God and do his will.”

All that people can do after exerting their right to choose their rulers is to hope for the best. Here’s trusting that the MNF won’t go back to unabashedly worshipping Mammon again.

(Linda Chhakchhuak is an independent journalist)