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Cold comfort: Congress retains Mizoram

Tuesday, 10 December 2013 - 9:32am IST | Place: GUWAHATI | Agency: DNA
Land scheme for the poor continues to get votes for the ruling party as chief minister Thanhawla wins for a record ninth time.

The Congress retained power in Mizoram winning 27 of the total 40 seats, while the opposition Mizo National Front won only four.

The victory gave Congress some cheer after its debacle in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi.

Mizoram Congress chief and chief minister Lal Thanhawla  ( in photo) was elected to the assembly for a record ninth time. He won from home turf Serchhip as well as Hrangturzo and is set for the fifth term as chief minister.

Altogether 142 candidates, including six women, contested the polls held on November 25. The Congress and MDA fielded candidates in all 40 seats. The BJP contested from 17 seats and lost all.

The Congress party’s  commitment to a revamped performance-driven pro-poor scheme has worked in its favour. The party’s government started working on it after it came to power in 2008 ousting the Mizo National Front (MNF).

The New Land Use Policy (NLUP), more than anything else, seemed to have done the trick for Congress yet again. In the run up to the 2013 elections, the Congress had committed to redesign the scheme to make it better.

The NLUP, an initiative of the Congress in mid-1980s, ensures land besides cash incentives to Mizoram’s rural and urban poor for self-reliance. But faulty implementation of the scheme frustrated the people so much that they kept Congress at bay in 1998 and 2003 polls, voting for regional MNF instead. So after it was voted back into power in 2008, the Congress was careful to not repeat that mistake.

The Rs.3,000crore-scheme will severely burden the state exchequer but the Congress said it would continue with the scheme if voted back to power. According to official records, the scheme has benefited half of Mizoram’s 2,51,581 households since its reimplementation in 2010 after it was shelved by the MNF government, ostensibly to concentrate on other development initiatives.

Most of the NLUP beneficiaries are those who live in rural Mizoram. The Lal Thanhawla government has always insisted that the rural population benefits from the scheme first.

“We’re banking on NLUP as it’s more than just a populist programme. It is being fine-tuned to suit people’s needs for self-reliance,” the chief minister had told dna ahead of the polls.

“Other states in the region are enthused by the NLUP model and are eager to introduce similar schemes. Even the Food and Agriculture Organisation is keen on NLUP,” he had said.  The success of the scheme can be gauged from the fact that a number of the beneficiaries had joined Congress out of gratitude.

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