Aizawl: Jeje Lalpekhlua, the recently-retired Indian footballer who joined Mizoram’s Zoram People’s Movement(ZPM) party on March 27, told East Mojo that the Lunglei Municipal Councill polls are a predictor that the public can no longer be fooled.
The first-ever civil poll of Lunglei Municipal Council was held on March 29, 2023, with four parties, including the ruling Mizo National Front party, Congress party, ZPM and BJP fielding candidates. Featuring a total of eleven wards, ZPM swept the polls in all wards. A win of such scale, with one party taking 100% of the seats in a municipal council is a political landmark for the state of Mizoram.
“I think this is Gods doing. These polls have shown the work of God. Whatever party comes to power should realise from these results that the people can no longer be bought with money, they can no longer be deceived. This is an indicator of progress in our land. No matter which party comes to power in the coming elections, the leaders should work with a real love for the land knowing that the public has grown wise,” said the former Chennaiyan FC player.
Across social media platforms such as Instagram, Whatsapp and Facebook, statuses went up commenting positively on the election results. Many commented saying, “The people of Lunglei are wise,” and “This is a new chapter in Mizoram politics”.
While MNF and Congress party have been reigning in Mizoram for over three decades, ZPM is a party that was formed as an alliance movement before the 2018 assembly elections where it contested 36 seats and won eight seats. While ZPM was expected to have good traction in the Lunglei municipal council polls with the induction of two new celebrity members, footballer Jejej Lalkephlua and singer, Vanlalsailova, the single majority win has come as a surprise to the people of Mizoram who were used to seeing MNF and Congress either win or share seats with Independent candidates and other opposition parties.
Hriata Sailo, a citizen activist commented on the poll results saying, “The landslide victory of the ZPM party in the recent Municipal Council election of Lunglei is indicative of the growing resentment and disenchantment of the populace with the ruling party, and established political parties at large. In their debut election in the State Assembly in 2018, there were doubts and questioning whether the party structure or the new system they offered would stand the test of time. Despite this, the ZPM party secured six seats, an impressive feat.”
“With the general election on the horizon and almost five years since its inception, the ZPM party appears to be gaining momentum, fuelled by the growing dissatisfaction with the ruling party. It appears that people are willing to give the ZPM party a chance, but the question remains, is the party ready for it?”
A 31-year-old Theology student who spoke to East Mojo on the condition of anonymity also commented on ZPM’s traction in the state, hinting that their performance might have a major impact on the assembly elections due in November 2023, saying, “This victory cannot be credited to ZPM party or its performance in the past because they are a young party and they do not have many accomplishments to speak of. However, the people are aware of how Congress and MNF have led them in the past. We are thirsty to become a developed state, and being aware of this, ZPM has come up with many good policies. They will have to work hard to uphold the policies they have spoken of and if they can do that, they will be expected to see good results in the coming legislative assembly elections in November.”
Like the 31-year-old, the Mizo youth born in the ’90s have only known two parties in power, MNF and Congress. While there are citizens who are dedicated party members of either one of these parties, the new generation who hold a neutral stance is eager to see what the ZPM party can bring.
“Before the assembly elections, MNF will pour out its financial resources and it will be hard for poor families to reject the money. Congress may also see a certain level of progress under their new President Lalsawta, but this time let us see what ZPM can do. They may not perform as well as we expect, but we have seen MNF and Congress lead us for this many years and are aware of their limits. We cannot say they have not done anything, but for these many years we have to buy power from other states, and the condition of farmers is growing worse with every year despite there being so many people who want to uphold them,” said Nicky Lotlai, a scholar at Mizoram University.
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To some, that one party won all the seats was seen to be a disadvantage. A journalist, Samuel Lalruatsanga, commented on the matter saying, “In any democracy, there needs to be an opposition that will critically guide the ruling party. In the LMC, there is no room for opposition and while ZPM has achieved a great feat, speaking from a patriotic point of view, I think this is not an ideal administrative system. Among the 11 councillors, seven councillors are young, single men and women. While I am happy for them that they can hold such seats of power at a young age, without an opposition party to guide them, I fear that they may tread on the wrong path. I do believe they would have wise counsel from the senior party persons.”
That the winners are of such a young age was welcomed with enthusiasm by citizens such as CV Lalmalsawmi, Assistant Professor at Jamia Millia Islamia University who commented on the age of the poll winners saying, “The winner of Ward 1 (General Ward) is Lalhruaitluangi Sailo born in 1995, and the winner of Reserved Ward 2 is Lalmuanpuii Renthlei who was born in 1996. In my own time, in my generation, I’m seeing the change I was sceptical would take place any time soon due to our societal set-up, young women becoming leaders, spokespersons, Councillors, and most of all, Glass Ceiling Breakers. Their wins are our wins.”
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