Rhetoric rejected

Published : Jan 02, 2009 00:00 IST

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit who won a third consecutive term in office.-SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit who won a third consecutive term in office.-SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Voters reward parties and governments that focussed on bread-and-butter issues.

RARE HAT-TRICK By Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta

THE drummers and cheerleaders at the New Delhi residence of the Bharatiya Janata Partys (BJP) chief minister candidate V.K. Malhotra disappeared as early as 10 a.m. on December 8 when the first few rounds of counting of ballots were completed. By noon, it was clear that incumbent Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit was going to lead a Congress government for the third time in a row. By evening, the Congress had surged far ahead of its rival, bagging 42 seats. The BJP closed its account with 23 in a house of 70.

Two Dalit-dominated parties opened their accounts this time. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which was expected to do well, won the Gokulpur and Badarpur seats while Ram Vilas Paswans Lok Janshakti Party won the Old Delhi constituency of Matia Mahal. Pre-poll surveys had given the Congress around 42 per cent of the vote, the BJP around 35 per cent, and the BSP around 14 per cent.

Just a year and a half ago, the BJP had swept the municipal elections. But it could not repeat the performance in the Assembly round. A couple of months ago, an internal party survey showed that the BJP enjoyed a 5 per cent edge over the Congress.

Both Malhotra and Arun Jaitley, the partys election-in-charge, were unable to give a definitive explanation for the defeat. Jaitley said a basket of issues had defeated the party. BJP national president Rajnath Singh conceded: Local issues counted the most in the State election.

A jubilant Sheila Dikshit thanked the voters: It is their victory and it shows the faith they have in our development work. Voters are smart enough to know the difference between real commitment and poll rhetoric.

She joins the elite league of Chief Ministers such as Jyoti Basu of West Bengal and Mohanlal Sukhadia of Rajasthan who turned the incumbency factor in their favour and won elections using their record and charisma. A look at the region-wise distribution of the Congress seats shows that the party has done uniformly well in East Delhi, where migrant population, especially from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, stay. Most of the slums are located here. The Scheduled Caste population is also very high here (around 25 per cent). These segments constitute the traditional vote base of the Congress, but before the elections it was predicted that the BSP would spoil its party.

The results show that both the Congress and the BSP have done extremely well here but the latters increased vote share could not stop the Congress from winning. This is good news for the Congress as it can hope that this section of the population will support it in the Lok Sabha elections next year.

The Congress fared better than the BJP in South and West Delhi, which are supposed to be BJP strongholds. In most of the constituencies here, the BSP finished a close third, taking more votes of the BJP than the Congress. Obviously, the regularisation of unauthorised colonies at the right time by the Congress government swung the votes in its favour in these areas. West Delhi has a significantly high Punjabi population, and this section by and large voted for the Congress except in the Janakpuri constituency where Jagdish Mukhi, the BJPs Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, won with a huge margin.

North Delhi is traditionally a stronghold of the Congress. However, being a business centre, it was predicted that traders would vote against the Congress after their show of protest during the infamous sealing drive two years ago (Frontline, October 20, 2006). However, Congress candidates won convincingly there, the most important being the victory of P.S. Sawhney in Chandni Chowk over the BJP candidate and president of the traders association Praveen Khandelwal.

Only in the Jat-dominated Outer Delhi did the Congress relatively underperform. A number of rebel candidates were in the fray here. Om Prakash Chautalas Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) managed one seat in the Jat area of Najafgarh.

Being a city-state, Delhi has a complex social set-up. Delimitation had made the existing caste and community equations to be renegotiated. The Congress managed to utilise the new equations in a better way than the BJP, by luring the various castes and communities.

On the other hand, the BJP lost on all its strategies. Malhotra said: We have reports of anti-party activities by some rebels and we will soon decide what action needs to be taken against them. The BJP, which had 4,000 seat-seekers in the beginning, could not silence the rebels. On the other hand, the Congress managed the Punjabi votes so well that all the four candidates of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal), an ally of the BJP, lost despite contesting from Sikh-majority constituencies.

All the Ministers in the erstwhile government won with good margins. The Congress won in Okhla, where the Batla House shooting episode occurred this October. The Speaker of the Assembly, Chaudhary Prem Singh, recorded his 11th straight victory from the Ambedkar Nagar constituency. Education Minister Arvinder Singh Lovely won with the biggest margin in this election when he defeated his nearest rival from the BJP by 31,925 votes.

A post-poll survey conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) showed that the upper class and the middle class voted for the Congress, dismissing theories that they would vote for the BJP in the wake of the rising terror incidents. Sheila Dikshits charisma helped only with the young voters and a section of the educated middle and upper classes, the survey found out.

The BSP, which polled more than 14 per cent of the vote this time, will be a force to reckon with in the so-far bipolar politics of Delhi. That the BSP has gradually increased its vote share from 3.63 per cent in 1998, 8.96 per cent in 2003 and about 10 per cent in the municipal election shows its increasing popularity. The BSP polled between 26 per cent and 31 per cent votes in Narela, Badli, Deoli, Babarpur and Tughlakabad (where it came runner-up). Though the party had expected to win seven seats, last-minute changes of candidates, party insiders said, sent wrong signals to the voters. Incidentally, Sheila Dikshit also mentioned this as one of the reasons for the BSP not harming the Congress.

Most importantly, it was the development agenda of the Congress that worked in its favour. The metro rail, the flyovers, the compressed natural gas-operated public transport system, increased greenery and improved power supply are among the Congress governments contributions. On the contrary, the BJP offered no such vision for the city.

Sheila Dikshit was chosen the leader of the legislature party by Congress president Sonia Gandhi after the elected members passed a resolution on December 10 to the effect that the leader be selected by Sonia Gandhi. This was just a formality as 90 per cent of those who won are seen as supporters of Sheila Dikshit.


THE battle for the 13th Assembly in Rajasthan was perhaps the most issue-based one that the State has seen. The Congress, with 96 legislators, will form the next government in the State with the help of independents.

While the BJP lost the elections, the resentment against its government did not entirely benefit the Congress, which fell short of a simple majority by five seats. In fact, the decline in the vote share of the BJP has not seen a concomitant increase in the vote share of the Congress. On the other hand, the vote share of others, that is, the non-Congress and non-BJP parties, and of independents, which has gone up steadily in the past few rounds of Assembly elections, saw a significant increase this time.

Interestingly, the bulk of others won on their own, without entering into alliances with anyone. They contested against one another in the majority of seats and yet defeated the official nominees of the Congress and the BJP or their alliance partners. What emerges is that where people found a credible alternative, they voted for that particular party and candidate.

The voter turnout at 66.44 per cent was only marginally lower than the 67.2 per cent in 2003. But what was notable was the high turnout of women this time; in many constituencies, it touched the 70 per cent mark. The vote share of the Congress rose marginally to 36 per cent this time from 35.6 per cent last time, while that of the BJP declined to 34 per cent from 39.2 per cent in 2003. In stark contrast, others recorded a 28 per cent vote share as against 25.2 per cent in 2003, giving credence to the theory that the votes the BJP lost did not go to the Congress.

In 1998, the Congress won 153 seats with a vote share of 44.95 per cent and the BJP won 33 seats with a vote share of 33 per cent. Others had a vote share of 23 per cent. Interestingly, in the 1993 elections, too, the vote share of others was 23 per cent, and that of the BJP and the Congress was 38.6 per cent and 38.27 per cent respectively. The Congress lost those elections but, ironically, its vote share then was higher than this time. If this trend continues, it is possible for a third front or parties or individuals representing a third force to make an impact in the State in the not-too-distant future. Fourteen independents won this time, most of them Congress and BJP rebels. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) stuck to its promise of Ek se anek (from one to many) by winning three seats, all entirely on its own, and the BSP increased its presence in the State by winning six seats.

While the CPI(M)s Amra Ram trounced Congress heavyweight and former Pradesh Congress Committee chief Narain Singh in Danta Ramgarh by more than 4,000 votes, Pema Ram consolidated the partys hold on Dhod, a seat vacated by Amra Ram, for the fourth consecutive time. What made Amra Rams victory sweeter against Narain Singh, described as the Naak of the Jats (pride of the Jats), was the fact that he had to change his seat because of the delimitation exercise.

At Anoopgarh in Sri Ganganagar district, which was at the epicentre of the farmers agitation led by the CPI(M), Pawan Kumar Duggal defeated his nearest rival by over 20,000 votes. Although Hetram Beniwal, one of the main leaders of the agitation, lost from Sadulsheher (he had to change his constituency from Sangaria because of the delimitation exercise), he polled over 20,000 votes.

The Samajwadi Party opened its account in the State by winning one seat. The Janata Dal (United), a BJP ally, won only one seat as against two last time. The Loktantrik Samajwadi Party, a new outfit floated by BJP rebel Prahlad Gunjal, wrested the other seat from it. However, Gunjal lost his own seat. The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), the other alliance partner of the BJP, failed to retain any of the four seats it won last time and drew a blank. On the whole, the alliance partners of the BJP too suffered as a result of the overall disenchantment of the electorate with the Vasundhara Raje government. A total of 13 rebels six from the Congress and seven from the BJP won, with the most prominent one being Kirori Lal Meena, former BJP Minister, at Todabhim; he not only won handsomely but also ensured the victory of his wife, Golama Devi, at Mahuwa.

The prominent losers in the Cabinet included the fiery Madan Singh Dilawar, Kalulal Gujjar, Kanakmal Katara, Nathusingh Gujjar, Surendrapal T.T., Yunus Khan, Surendra Goyal, Pratapsingh Singhvi, Amraram Chaudhary, Sanwarlal Jat, Khemaram Meghwal and Surendra Singh Rathore.

It was a fiercely contested election, focussed more on issues rather than caste and community calculations. This is not to say that political parties did not use identity politics, but when they did, the voter, irrespective of the candidates caste, consciously voted against candidates who did not live up to their expectations. Therefore, it was hardly surprising that many Congress heavyweights, including two former pradesh Congress presidents and the present PCC chief, lost, the latter by just one vote. The outcome of the elections was as political pundits expected. Sections within Vasundhara Raje Scindias government knew that it would not be easy for the party to retain its hold on 120 seats or even get a simple majority. As for the Congress, analysts were of the view that the party would not be able to cash in on the failures of the Vasundhara Raje government and repeat its 1998 performance when it won 156 of the 200 seats in the Assembly.

In fact, the results are a reversal of the situation in 1993 when the BJP, led by Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, won 95 seats and the Congress 76. The BJP went on to form the government with the help of independents.

The new Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot, who led the Congress campaign, had indicated to Frontline in an interview that the party would get a clear majority. He was careful not to use the words thumping majority. Congressmen as a whole were unsure of going much beyond the 101 mark. They knew there was no wave in the State, either for the Congress or the BJP. Testifying to this fact is the defeat of many Congress heavyweights, among them former PCC chiefs Narain Singh (in Danta Ramgarh) and Bulaki Das Kalla (in Bikaner West), C.P. Joshi, PCC chief (in Nathdwara) and Harendra Mirdha (in Nagaur), son of former Congress Minister Ram Nivas Mirdha.

Many BJP heavyweights too lost. Among them was the outgoing Speaker, Sumitra Singh, who lost to Rita Chaudhary, a political novice and the daughter of Congress veteran Narayan Singh Chaudhary.

To apportion the BJPs defeat or the Congress win to the presence or absence of rebels would be simplistic. The BJP would be loath to admit that it was an angry electorate, spread over more than 120 seats, that voted out Vasundhara Rajes government. The aggressive slogan of development (vikaas) just did not sell. The BJP realised this and soon enough the tenor of the campaign shifted to terrorism, Ram Sethu and minority appeasement. Even this did not sell.

It would be equally facile to state that the Congress owed its victory to the Gandhi parivaar, as Gehlot claimed soon after the results started pouring in. His confusion in giving credit to the people was probably the result of the partys inability to decide on its Chief Minister. Though he emerged as the undisputed leader, the party was not keen to take any risk before the Lok Sabha elections. The risks here included alienating the crucial Jat votes as well as leaders of the community, some of whom have lost in these elections.

In a State that is struggling to shed its BIMARU (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh the States that lag behind in terms of development indicators) status, and where real issues are now being increasingly addressed by non-Congress and non-BJP parties, the manner in which the electorate has reacted is commendable. It is also significant that despite all attempts to polarise or communalise the atmosphere, given the Mumbai terror attacks, the electorate chose not to vote on sectarian lines. It is time the mainstream parties recognised this emerging reality.

WIN BY DEFAULTBy Purnima S. Tripathi

THE BJPs victory in Madhya Pradesh has been attributed to the TINA (there is no alternative) factor by many political analysts. Apparently, in the absence of a credible alternative to the BJP, the people chose to remain with it. There was nothing spectacular in the performance of Shivraj Singh Chauhans government no matter how much BJP leaders pat their own backs for it now, said noted political analyst Yogendra Yadav. He added: The fact remains that people have so little expectation from the mainstream parties that even a marginal improvement is given great importance. Besides, Shivraj Singh Chauhan gave the impression of a man who was at least trying sincerely to make a difference.

What worked in Chauhans favour, he said, was the fact that people had very little expectation of him. In the three years of his rule, he emerged as a man who was trying hard to deliver. This paid off. Another factor that worked for the BJP, he said, was the 11 per cent difference between the vote shares of the BJP and the Congress in 2003. So, even with some erosion in its votes, the BJP could still win.

The Congress non-performance in the past five years also benefited the BJP. It was not once seen as standing up for the peoples causes. On issues such as malnutrition deaths, the brashness of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal activists, and the rampant corruption even at the lowest levels of the administration, the party did not lead a single popular agitation.

Hence, despite the BJP governments failures, the people chose to vote for it because it had provided at least some basic facilities such as roads and power and had introduced a few populist schemes, for girl-children and women.

The failure of Mayawatis Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Uma Bharatis Bharatiya Jan Shakti party (BJS) to make a dent in the BJPs vote bank also helped the party. The BJS was expected to wean away traditional BJP voters, but it failed to do so; Uma Bharati herself lost in Tikamgarh to the Congress Yadvendra Singh.

Insiders in the BJS said many of the partys candidates had silently withdrawn in favour of the BJP because they did not have the money to keep the campaign going. Many of our candidates were managed by the BJP, said a BJS functionary on the eve of the results.

Perhaps it was this management that a senior BJP leader, a Rajya Sabha member from the State, hinted at a few days before polling. Asked whether the BJP faced a threat from the BJS, the leader laughed out aloud and said: Election ladne ke liye paisa chahiye (One needs money to fight elections). Uma Bharati is like the setting sun and in our country even the setting sun is worshipped [during the chhath festival], so dont be mistaken by the crowds at her meetings. She will fade into oblivion after the results are out.

Whether or not that happens, Uma Bharati can no longer claim that Chauhan enjoys power at her cost. However, the BJS, which contested the Assembly elections for the first time, managed to win five seats and get over 4 per cent of the votes.

Perhaps what helped the BJP most was the divisions in the Congress. With a large number of leaders, each one trying to emerge the winner, the party had lost the battle even before it began. If pradesh Congress president Suresh Pachauri was hugely unpopular, leaders such as Union Ministers Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Arjun Singh, and former Chief Minister Digvijay Singh focussed only on ensuring that their candidates won.

There was not even the pretence of unity in the party. Even when External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee released the manifesto, no leader other than Pachauri was present. In the circumstances, the fact that the Congress increased its tally to 71 from the 38 last time came as a surprise. The party also increased its vote share to over 35 per cent from 31.6 per cent. But this was not enough to defeat the BJP, which retained its vote share of over 42 per cent and won 143 seats, down 30 from 2003.The BSP was expected to cut into the Brahmin vote bank of the BJP and also the Congress vote bank, but it ended up damaging the chances of only the Congress and this benefited the BJP. The BSP won seven seats and came second in 18 and its vote share shot up to over 11 per cent from 7 per cent last time.

Yogendra Yadav believes that in at least 24 seats the BSP damaged the Congress prospects directly as the number of votes its candidates polled was almost the same as the margin of defeat of the Congress candidates. We have probably been done in by the smaller parties such as the BSP. We will certainly have to take a look at this in our future strategy, said Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari. While the BSP will have to remain content with a limited role in Madhya Pradesh politics for now, it has succeeded in converting the bipolar contests in the State into triangular ones.

Did the terror attacks in Mumbai on November 26 help the BJP gain votes? Madhya Pradesh voted on November 27, even as the commando operation was under way at the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels and at Nariman House. Not much was known about the terrorists links then. An unknown number of people were trapped inside the three places and the Congress-led governments in Maharashtra and at the Centre were only coming to grips with the situation.

The queues were short in the beginning, but as the details started filtering in, they started growing longer, especially in urban areas, and by the time polling ended 69.77 per cent of the electorate had voted. Though it is still early to say whether the terror attacks had a direct bearing on the verdict, it is likely that the BJP gained by default. There was a clear shift towards the BJP on the penultimate day as people came out to vote in large numbers, especially in urban areas, said Subhash Chandra Tripathi, retired Director-General of Police, Madhya Pradesh, who is now associated with the BSP.

Shaibal Gupta, social scientist and member secretary of the Asian Development Research Institute, said the BJP was a huge political beneficiary of the terror attacks. He said: We should not forget the fact that Madhya Pradesh borders Maharashtra; Indore is called mini-Mumbai. It is wrong to assume that when something of this dimension happens in Mumbai, people in Madhya Pradesh will not be affected by it and will vote indifferently. This and the arrest and ill-treatment of Sadhvi Pragya, against whom there is still not much evidence of involvement in the Malegaon bomb blasts, certainly worked against the Congress and in favour of the BJP.

This, he said, explained the heavy polling in urban areas, especially those considered communally sensitive, and the BJPs virtual sweep in places such as Bhopal and Indore. In Bhopal, contrary to expectations, the BJP won six of the seven seats; the Congress could win only the Bhopal North seat. In Indore, the BJP won six of the eight seats, some of them by wafer-thin margins, and the Congress two.

Though no Congress leader is willing to go on record, they admit that the terror attacks in Mumbai did have an impact on the voting in Madhya Pradesh. Digvijay Singh vaguely hinted at this when he said: The Mumbai attacks, too, could have influenced the voting pattern in Madhya Pradesh.

The return of the BJP government has heightened the sense of fear among members of the minority communities. In Indore city and its neighbouring areas, which have been witness to frequent communal tension in the past five years, Muslims fear that Hindutva outfits will get bolder now. Christians, too, expressed a similar fear.

POPULIST VOTEBy Venkitesh Ramakrishnan

THE battle of competitive populism in Chhattisgarh was finally won by those who started it and had the superior organisational machinery to turn it into electoral gains. This could well be the one-line assessment of the outcome of the elections to the 90-member State Assembly, which were held in two phases on November 14 and 20. The BJP was the front-runner in the populist competition, and it duly returned to power with 50 seats, the same number it had held in the previous Assembly. The Congress, the principal Opposition, which sought to follow in the BJPs footsteps, improved its tally marginally by winning 38 seats, one up from its previous position. The BSP won two seats, its strength in the last Assembly.

In an election campaign that did not focus on core issues, such as the pathetic livelihood conditions of the considerable number of people living below the poverty line (BPL) and the troublesome security climate marked by persistent violence between Maoist rebels and Salwa Judum (the self-styled anti-naxalite resistant group based mainly in the tribal districts of Dantewada and Bastar) activists, it was the populist programmes announced by the BJP and the Congress that influenced the electoral process.

The ruling BJP was better placed to exploit the populist method. The Raman Singh-led government initiated the exercise by introducing a scheme to provide rice at Re.3 a kg and salt at 25 paise a kg for BPL families. Once the election process started, the Congress also fell for this populist trap and promised to provide rice to all ration card holders at Rs.2 a kg if elected to power. The BJP then went the extra mile, promising in its election manifesto to provide rice at Re.1 a kg and salt free of cost, interest-free loan for the agriculture sector, and free electricity to farmers having 5-horse power pumps, among other things.

Organisationally too, the BJP was better placed than the Congress. It announced that the incumbent Chief Minister would continue to lead its government. And to this end it played up, throughout the campaign, Raman Singhs image of an honest politician. The BJPs internal assessment was that any anti-incumbency sentiment would work against some of the legislators and not against Raman Singh, and as such the party set forth to address this factor at the local level by denying the ticket to 18 sitting MLAs. Overall, the BJPs campaign was better structured. Its central coordinator, Ravi Shankar Prasad, camped in Raipur and assigned well-defined roles to various units of the party as well as its affiliates in the Sangh Parivar such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh.

In contrast, the Congress campaign was anything but structured. Its was mainly led by former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi, who moves about in a wheelchair, having suffered grievous injuries in a road accident a few years ago. Jogi undertook intensive campaigning but had little support from other Congress stalwarts in the State such as Vidya Charan Shukla and Motilal Vora. Some reports said factional politics played its role and suggested that Jogi had sought to undermine the electoral chances of his inner-party rivals such as Mahendra Karma, the Leader of the Opposition in the previous Assembly.

Overall, the Congress campaign seemed disoriented, merely replicating the populist promises made by the BJP. It failed to highlight serious issues such as the alarming rate of farmers suicides in the State and the undue weightage given to the development of Special Economic Zones (SEZs). The human rights violations by the State government, which were exposed through a number of incidents, including the arrest in May 2007 of the human rights activist and public health specialist Dr. Binayak Sen on charges of having links with Maoist rebels, did not find a place in its campaign. According to many middle-level Congress leaders of the State, Mahendra Karmas proactive role in founding and advancing the activities of Salwa Judum acted as a handicap.

In terms of vote share, the BJP got 40.33 per cent, which marked a marginal improvement on its 2003 figure of 39.26 per cent. The Congress, too, registered an increase, from 36.71 per cent in 2003 to 38.63 per cent. In 2003, the Congress contested the elections on its own, whereas this time it entered into an alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). In 2003, the NCP contested all the seats. However, it won only one seat and registered a vote percentage of 7.02. Obviously, the coming together of the Congress and the NCP did not automatically translate into an accretion of the NCP votes to the Congress. This arithmetic exposes the limitations of the Congress campaign. The fact that six senior party leaders were defeated in the elections also points to a serious lack of electoral strategy. State Congress president Dhanendra Sahu, working president Satyanarayan Sharma, Mahendra Karma, Deputy Leader of the Opposition Bhupesh Baghel and Arun Vora, son of former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Motilal Vora, were among the partys losers.

The third force in Chhattisgarh, represented by the BSP, also registered an increase in its vote share, from 4.45 per cent to 6.11 per cent. Again, this did not reflect in the number of seats won. However, the BSP emerged second in 12 constituencies. Other smaller parties, such as the Communist Party of India (CPI), the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), put up spirited fights in many constituencies but drew a blank. The performance of Manish Kunjam of the CPI in Dantewada was particularly impressive. Although the BJPs Bhima Mandavi emerged the winner, Kunjam was able to push Mahendra Karma to the third spot.

The writing on the wall for the Congress was clear. The Congress and the forces of the third alternative will have to strengthen their organisational set-ups and increase their social and political interventions in the State to make an impact on electoral politics and in day-to-day affairs. Until that happens, the BJPs finely tuned organisational machinery will continue to hold sway in Chhattisgarh.


The famine caused by the Mautam of 1959 in the then Mizo Hills district of Assam led to the birth of the Mizo National Front (MNF), first as an insurgent outfit and then as a strong regional political party. When the Mautam returned after almost five decades, it cost the party the throne.

(Mautam is the phenomenon of flowering of a particular variety of bamboo, at intervals of 47-50 years, over a wide area. The flowering leads to an explosion in the populations of rodents and insects, which, after feasting on the bamboo seeds, devour other crops, thus causing a famine.)

The December 2 Assembly elections brought the Congress back to power and made it the first party to secure a four-fifths majority in the State. The Congress won 32 of the 40 seats. The MNF, which was in power for two consecutive terms, won only three seats and lost 18. Its ally, the Maraland Democratic Front (MDF), however, won the one seat it contested. The third player, the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), won four. Two of its constituents, the Mizoram Peoples Conference (MPC) and the Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP), won two seats each.

In 2003, the Congress won 12 seats while the MNF secured 21. In 1998, the MNF-MPC combine captured 32 seats, while the Congress won only six.

Chief Minister Zoramthanga contested from Champhai North and Champhai South in this election and lost in both seats. Once a front-ranking underground leader, Zoramthanga was Chief Minister for two consecutive terms. In 2003, he won from the Kolasib and Champhai seats. Three-time Chief Minister Lalthanhawla contested from Serchhip and South Tuipui and won in both. Another prominent winner was 86-year-old Brigadier (retired) T. Sailo, Second World War veteran and MPC chief, from the Aizawl West-II constituency.

The results this time threw up some paradoxical facts and figures. The Congress vote share increased from 30.06 per cent in 2003 elections to 38.89 per cent this time. On the other hand, although the MNFs vote share came down only marginally, from 31.69 per cent in 2003 to about 31.48 per cent, the partys numerical strength in the Assembly got reduced drastically. The ZNPs vote share fell from 14.7 per cent in 2003 to 10.22 per cent and the MPCs vote share dropped from 16.16 per cent to 10.38 per cent. But the two parties won four seats between them.

The MNF had hoped that the voters born after the peace accord would be aware of the sacrifices it made during the two decades of struggle for statehood. Its campaign film Farewell to Arms, on the underground movement, was meant to spread the message among young voters. The young generation, however, was more interested in change and development.

An aggressive campaign by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Rahul Gandhi helped the party to wean away voters who were unhappy with a decade of MNF rule. The Congress main election plank was corruption and financial mismanagement by the MNF government. The new Chief Minister, Lalthanhawla, described the partys landslide victory as peoples victory, but his government will be under tremendous pressure to fulfil the aspirations that have brought it to power.

The MNF campaign machinery was no match for that of the Congress. With Chief Minister Zoramthanga busy campaigning in his own constituencies most of the time, the MNF did not have a single star campaigner. The Congress strategy was to organise big rallies at important political centres, including Aizawl, to reach out to the maximum number of voters. The MNF, however, did not hold any major rally and thus failed to counter the Congress campaign.

The MNFs defeat is ironical. Village elders recall how they survived the 1959 Mautam by eating wild roots. This time, however, there were no starvation deaths, with the government distributing rice free of cost among the affected people. The Congress campaign alleged misappropriation of the Bamboo Flowering and Famine Combat Scheme (BAFFCOS) funds to the tune of Rs.125 crore. The MNF failed to counter the campaign effectively.

Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment