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The aura of Mizo National Front craftsman

By Zodin Sanga

AIZAWL, Dec 16 - If the story of Abraham Lincoln�s travel from a log cabin to the White House is a powerful symbol of one�s political ambition, Zoramthanga�s travel from a guerilla hideout in a Myanmar jungle to the Chief Minister�s chair is no less inspiring.

The 74-year-old leader of Mizoram�s oldest political party, Mizo National Front (MNF), was born on July 13, 1944 in a small village called Samthang near the Myanmar border, in Champhai district of Mizoram. After elementary education in his native village, he graduated in English Literature from DM College in Imphal. Then, a young Zoramthanga wanted to pursue a career in academics but the troubled socio-political situation back home forced him to return to Mizoram and he joined the Laldenga-led MNF, then a banned underground outfit. So in 1966, the fresh graduate was an insurgent.

In 1969, when all the MNF cadres went to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), Zoramthanga was spotted by Laldenga as one of the promising leaders of the outfit and he engaged him as his secretary, a position he held for seven years. In 1979, Zoramthanga was elevated to the vice-president and went on to become Laldenga�s right-hand man till the latter died in 1990. He had travelled to several south Asian countries as Laldenga�s emissary.

Zoramthanga came over ground following the historic Mizo Accord of June 30, 1986. He succeeded Laldenga when the latter died in 1990 and became the MNF president. He was first elected as MLA from his home constituency Champhai in the first Mizoram State Assembly elections in 1987. He retained this seat till he met his Waterloo in the 2008 Assembly polls when he was defeated by a Congress newcomer TT Zothansanga.

Zoramthanga forged a pre-poll alliance with Mizoram People�s Conference before the 1998 elections to take on the Congress led by Lal Thanhawla. The MNF-MPC combine won 33 seats of the 40 seats. Following the victory, he became the CM in the coalition government, which, however, did not last long. The MNF went on to form the government, and single-handedly won the 2003 elections, letting Zoramthanga remain in the CM�s office for a second consecutive term.

After 10 years in power, Zoramthanga faced a humble defeat in the 2008 elections from the resurrected Congress which rode on a strong anti-incumbency wave. MNF was reduced to just three seats from 21 seats, with Zoramthanga himself biting the dust in his traditional constituency.

Now, after another ten years in political wilderness, Zoramthanga, now 74, has come back as �more experienced man� as he himself put it. �I took over as CM for the first time in 1998. I was so inexperienced then. I spent the first five years in learning. The next five years were better but far from perfect,� Zoramthanga told reporters after he was sworn in as CM for the third time yesterday.

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