Aizawl: Not many people know that within two years of its formation, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) tried making a presence in Mizoram in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections with M. Lalmanzuala, a retired IAS officer, as their candidate. However, the party dwindled after it failed to see fruitful results.
But one school teacher is now trying to revive the party, and he believes the state is ready for a party like the AAP.
When he was a child, Andrew Lalremkima yearned to join the army. But as he grew older, he found himself more interested in the field of education. After schooling from Darjeeling’s Mount Hermon school and graduating from Delhi University’s St. Stephen’s College, Lalremkima joined the Neuhof English Medium School as a teacher.
He has now been the Principal of the school for 14 years, and since May 2022, he is also the organising chairman of the AAP in Mizoram. Lalremkima never saw himself as a politician until he took a closer look at Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party and its policies.
“I had no interest in politics. I never saw myself in the political field, but when I took a close look at the AAP, it struck me that this is exactly what our state has needed,” he told EastMojo.
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“As a school principal, I am a keen educator, and I prioritise curricular activities. My goal was for our school children to be well educated. I believed this was the contribution I could give to society. But there were many things I wanted to fix even in the education system itself: for example, our results are declared as the first division, second division. We have to change this to a percentage-wise declaration; it is more relevant. It always baffled me how private schools with a minimum budget can run good schools while government schools struggle to function. I always say that in my work and profession, a lot of changes can be made.”
He lived out of Mizoram for over 13 years, studying in Darjeeling and Delhi. Ever since then, he would compare his home state to the states he visited and lived in and often wished they could have the same facilities back at home. After learning about AAP, he came to believe that this was the party that could bring the change and progress needed in Mizoram.
‘AAP focuses on health, governance’
A group of concerned citizens, who wanted to change the political scenario in the state and were impressed by the AAP, had been holding meetings infrequently. Lalremkima started attending these AAP meetings in December last year.
“In the beginning, I just wanted to back them. I had no intention of being an active member. But God planted a love for my people and my state in my heart, and I decided that I should become an active member with the hope that I could make some kind of contribution to the progress of our people,” he said.
Lalremkima shared some of AAP’s initiatives that impressed him such as how a health minister in Punjab was arrested on charges of corruption. “For example, in their campaigns, they would say, look at our progress report. You can decide to vote for or against us based on what you see. They do not have to make up any lies, they can just say, look at what we have done. I am impressed by their way of governance, and we want to have a government like that in Mizoram too,” he said.
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“The AAP has set an excellent example, they work for the ordinary people, for the non-government employees, for the disadvantaged in the society. There are many of us in this category in Mizoram, and we need a good leader with the right principles. The AAP party philosophy is very good, and I believe we will be successful,” he continued.
AAP to contest 2023 elections, but what are their chances
AAP plans to contest in the 2023 Assembly elections in Mizoram and Lalremkima believes they have a strong chance. “AAP is what Mizoram needs right now. All parties in Mizoram have had their chances. Leaving the Zoram Peoples Movement aside, both the Mizo National Front and Congress have had 35 years to show us what they can do. We can see that what they can do is not enough for the state. Mizoram is a state especially favoured by God for some unknown reasons, but the state is suffering because the church and government leaders are misusing their power. We need a God-fearing leader.”
He said health, education and economy will be on top of the list if they can form a government.
“I did not want to set up AAP without the notice of the Delhi office. We wanted Delhi’s approval, so we tried to contact them. Initially, the response was slow. But last month, when Rajesh Sharma came to Assam for the municipal election, we went and met him. We informed him that we want to set up the AAP in Mizoram. A month later, he was in Tripura and informed us that he will be coming to Mizoram.”
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The AAP Northeast-in-charge Rajesh Sharma visited Mizoram and on May 17 announced that they would launch a one-month-long membership drive.
“We have been given one month to recruit members and will form a Mizoram branch if there are at least 50 members in each district. So far, we have seen a response beyond our expectations. Around 200 members have signed up,” said Joseph, Mizoram AAP Organising Secretary.
Lalchhandama, a journalist working at one of the leading papers in Mizoram, believes AAP could make a mark in the elections. However, it would be highly unlikely for them to win. “AAP is working really hard, they are extending their branches to different states in India, and I think they are a party which should not be taken for granted. Their strategy is very profound. At the same time, it is hard to analyse how they will turn out in Mizoram. It could be said that the administration and working policy of AAP in Delhi and Punjab has really captured the attention of the Mizo youth. However, since they are just starting with their membership drive, it is hard to determine their future stand. In the current situation, even if they contest the MLA elections, it is not likely that they would win a seat, however, they could win a lot of votes. If Arvind Kejriwal would come to Mizoram, there would be a big atmosphere.”
And while Lalremkima believes AAP has a lot of potential in Mizoram, his ‘rivals’ do not really see it that way. Vanlalhmuaka, BJP Mizoram President, told EastMojo: “They are a political party that is starting its journey in Mizoram, and it is a democratic nation so we do not have any comment on it. But it is unlikely that they will find ground in Mizoram. Without an MP in the parliament, there is no hope of finding ground anywhere. From where will they get any support?”
The answer to that question is something the AAP and Lalremkima will find out only in due course. For now though, AAP seems set to become a more regular figure in the state’s political landscape.
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