He once discarded this seat, now his fate depends on it

Former Mizoram CMFormer CM Zoramthanga (in cap) in Khuangthing village. Express

Wearing a white baseball cap and walking on Khuangthing village's deserted main street with two aides, Zoramthanga is candid about his chances. "I am taking a risk," says the former Mizoram chief minister.

"We now only have one-third of the strength we had in this seat," he adds. "But I was born and grew up in Samthang village nearby, so I chose this seat to contest from."

From being a chief minister for two terms, Zoramthanga has gone on to become a candidate with simultaneous losses in two contiguous seats of Champhai town. He has now returned to East Tuipui, a constituency earlier known as Khawbung. It is a seat he had won in 1998, one of two victories, but he had given it up to represent the other seat, Champhai, a more urban one. In 2003, he contested and won two urban seats in Champhai, before the double blow came in 2008. It was allegations of corruption that sealed his government's fate; Zoramthanga is today one of only three candidates statewide facing a criminal case.

President of the Mizo National Front, he has sought a resurgence by teaming up with two other parties under the banner Mizoram Democratic Alliance. Kicking off a joint campaign in Aizawl on November 1, Zoramthanga predicted a repeat of the landslide victory of 1998, when his MNF had been in alliance with the Mizoram People's Conference, now an MDA constituent.

Zoramthanga says he has been forced to contest just one seat this time, unlike the other two potential chief ministers, incumbent Lal Thanhawla (Congress) and Lalduhoma (Zoram Nationalist Party). Having had to choose one over the other in the past, he admits contesting two might have complicated his chances.

The fact that he once surrendered this seat still rings in the region. One of his competitors, W Chhuanawma of the ZNP, uses it as an handle to beat his heavyweight opponent with.

... contd.

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