P Lal Thanhawla has been the chief minister of Mizoram since 2008 for a record five times.
P Lal Thanhawla has been the chief minister of Mizoram since 2008 for a record five times. He started with Mizo National Front (MNF) in 1966 and subsequently joined Congress in 1967. He gave up the position of chief minister for Pu Laldenga when former late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi signed the peace accord. Though BJP is not much of a force in Mizoram, the chief minister will face both BJP and MNF at the same time.
He spoke to WION’S Kartikeya Sharma on a number of issues ranging from prohibition to BJP and trade links with Bangladesh.
WION: How hopeful you are of wresting Mizoram again?
Lal Thanhawla: I’m very hopeful of winning back Mizoram again. Trends are in our favour and there is no anti-incumbency in the state. People are with us and our candidates will do very well.
WION: What are the issues in the upcoming assembly elections?
Lal Thanhawla: There aren’t many issues. Economically Mizoram has done well. Congress is a popular government. Our policies have benefitted the poor. Mizoram is part of the best performing states in India. It is ahead of Gujarat in some parameters. Mizoram’s per capita income is higher than the national average. We have been able to cater to the low-income strata very well.
WION: Is prohibition an issue in the elections?
Lal Thanhawla: Prohibition is not an issue. We implemented the prohibition on the advice of the Church which failed miserably. We had to find alternatives after its failure. We made the sale of liquor legal but added strong provisions to control its rampant sale.
WION: Two important ministers have quit your government...
Lal Thanhawla: There resignation will not affect my government. Some years ago our vice-president also quit but we came back with a thumping majority. We will repeat our performance again.
WION: What explains the rise of BJP in the state and is Opposition a force in Mizoram?
Lal Thanhawla: BJP has come up in North-East through money power. Even in the past money power was used in Mizoram. It did not find success in the state. We will defeat BJP’s attempt to intrude in the state. MNF is not a major force even in the legislature today. They only have 5 MLAs in an assembly of 40. Though some regional parties are trying to come together, Congress will defeat all of them.
WION: Will you be the CM again or would you like to go to the Centre?
Lal Thanhawla: I have no plans of doing politics at the Centre. I do not want to leave the state.
WION: What will you do if you are voted back into power?
Lal Thanhawla: I want to establish trade links with Bangladesh. Nothing was done for 10 years when I was not in power. Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is very keen on trade links with our state. We already have trade links with Myanmar. This will give us access to the port. It will benefit Mizoram immensely.