Cong stalwart Lal Thanhawla to be Mizoram CM for 5th time

chief minister Lal Thanhawla Mizoram's four-time chief minister Lal Thanhawla of the Congress is set to take office for a fifth term, after leading his party to a thumping victory in the just-concluded state elections.

The 71-year-old Congress stalwart has been in and out of power in the state for the past three decades.

The small north-eastern state of Mizoram rarely enters the consciousness of the national media despite its sensitive location – it shares long borders with both Bangladesh and Myanmar.

He was today declared to have won winner from both Serchhip and Hrangturzo assembly constituencies, the two seats he contested. He will, of course, have to give up one of the seats; but his nominee is more than likely to win the by-election for that.

Lal Thanhawla is credited with establishing a Congress base in the tribal and Christian dominated state almost single-handedly since he joined the party 46 years ago. He first became chief minister of the north-eastern state in 1984, rising in politics from the background of a low-level government official.

"Due to his years of exceedingly hard work, sterling leadership qualities and a deep commitment to the people, Lal Thanhawla has become the most admired leader of Mizoram," said veteran Congress leader Birajit Sinha.

As the poster boy of the Congress, he has been the architect of each and every electoral success the party has achieved in this hill state after it attained statehood in 1987.

Lal Thanhawla also worked as a journalist for various periodicals. He was the founder and president of Mizoram Journalists Association.

He started his career as a recorder in the office of the Inspector of Schools in the Mizo District Council before going on to join the Assam Co-operative Apex Bank in 1963-64. During this time, he also managed to graduate from Aizawl College.

Mizoram was then a district council under Assam but was fighting for statehood, with the militant Mizo National Front (MNF) led by Laldenga at the forefront of the movement.

The MNF was looking for educated young people and persistently wooed Lal Thanhawla to join them. Although said to be apprehensive of joining a militant outfit, he did so and was soon made the MNF's 'foreign secretary'.

In 1967, the government arrested him on charges of sedition and he was sent to the Nagaon Jail in Assam, until his release in 1969.

Lal Thanhawla is the president of the Mizoram Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) since 1973. He was first elected to the state Assembly in 1978 from Mizoram-Myanmar border Champhai constituency and was re-elected in 1979 from the same seat.

The Congress party defeated the ruling People's Conference (PC) led by the then chief minister Brigadier Thenphunga Sailo in 1984, when Lal Thanhawla became the third chief minister of Mizoram.

After the Mizo Peace Accord was signed on 30 June 1986, Lal Thanhawla vacated his chair in favour of Laldenga of the erstwhile underground MNF and was inducted as deputy chief minister under Laldenga in the interim MNF-Congress coalition government.

Despite winning his assembly seat in the 1987 assembly polls, Lal Thanhawla – now a Congress member - had to sit in the opposition as the MNF won the polls and Laldenga became the state's first chief minister.

Laldenga's MNF ministry was toppled by the Congress in September 1988 and the state was placed under President's rule and fresh elections ordered.

Lal Thanhawla returned to power in the 1989 assembly polls when the Congress and the MNF (Democrats) forged alliance and he was installed for the second time as chief minister.

His loyalties were long divided to an extent – despite being a Congressman, he continued to have a soft spot for Laldenga, and supported him as and when politics demanded such support. But with the MNF becoming redundant, Lal Thanhawla is now firmly established as the Congress leader of the state.