Terming the Mizoram assembly polls as “dress rehearsal” for Lok Sabha elections next year, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Saturday exuded confidence that his party will form the next government in the northeastern state.
Addressing a press conference here, the Lok Sabha MP from Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala asserted that Mizoram will be the first state in the Northeast where the Congress will return to power after 2014, when the BJP formed the government at the Centre.
Mizoram was the last Congress-ruled state in the Northeast before the party lost power to the Mizo National Front (MNF) in the 2018 assembly polls. MNF is a part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Tharoor said the upcoming Lok Sabha elections next year will be nothing less than a “struggle for saving India’s soul”.
“The idea of India that everyone is equal irrespective of language, religion, caste, creed, region and culture is our right enshrined in our Constitution. That idea is under threat. In many ways, the Mizoram election is a dress rehearsal for the Lok Sabha polls. “It is the opportunity for the people of Mizoram to say that this is the India we want to preserve. We want you to think very seriously about the larger meaning of this election,” he added.
Tharoor asserted that the Congress celebrates India’s diversity and strengths, not its weaknesses. “The Congress will oppose one nation, one language, one code and one culture. We are against uniformity. We believe that we can be united while maintaining our diversity,” he added.
As Congress leader Rahul Gandhi says, the time to end the politics of hatred is here and the time has come to bring Indians together to see dreams together, Tharoor said. Attacking the ruling dispensation in Mizoram, Tharoor said that “five years have been wasted in the state under the MNF rule, which was marred by corruption and lack of development”.
“Mizo people can be sure that the money of Mizoram will be spent for the state in the interest of its people, not for some individuals. There is a need for sensible creative people in government,” he added. Tharoor also spoke about high unemployment in Mizoram and said some creative approaches are required to address the issue.
He highlighted various points of the Congress manifesto for the Mizoram election and said that all will be fulfilled like the party has done in other states where it is in power. On the main opposition party Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM), Tharoor questioned their source of funding in the assembly polls and asked about the regional party’s experience and expertise to govern a state like Mizoram which is facing a series of problems due to “misrule” of the MNF.
“No one really knows who is behind them (ZPM). There is a genuine fear that a vote for the ZPM will be a vote for the BJP to come in through the backdoor. That’s why we are urging people to go with the tried and tested party that you know. Congress is proud of Mizoram, its people and culture,” he added. Talking about the BJP, which is contesting 23 seats with a host of promises, Tharoor said he is concerned about the special provisions under Article 371G and wondered if it will meet the same fate like the Article 370 of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Article 371G of the Constitution is a special provision for Mizoram. It states that no central law relating to religious or social practices, customary law and procedure, and ownership and transfer of land will be applicable unless the Mizoram Assembly ratifies the same. “We have every reason to worry about the BJP’s promises. It has notoriously failed to keep its promises since 2014 — be it Rs 15 lakh in account or 2 crore jobs every year.
“BJP’s track record is such that nothing is sacred or untouched. This is the worry we all have. If the people of Mizoram want to preserve what they have got, they should take any promises and assurances with a very generous pinch of salt,” Tharoor said. He also alleged that corruption in the country has gone up substantially after the BJP came to power in 2014 in contrary to the saffron party’s claim of non-corrupt governance.
Asked how the Congress’s plans to prevent its MLAs from shifting allegiance after the results come out, the parliamentarian said, “Opportunists have left the party seeing opportunities somewhere else. In Mizoram, we have given tickets to some good people, who will not jump overnight to other parties.” All the Congress candidates are firm believers of the party ideology and honest people, who do not want power to get benefits, he claimed. Later, interacting with young professionals, he said that unemployment is one of the biggest challenges the state is facing at present. He claimed that over 23 per cent of the Mizoram youths seeking jobs during the last five years are unemployed.
Tharoor hit out at the MNF government, accusing it of failing to fulfill its pre-poll promise of generating employment. The MNF government has claimed that 7,900 jobs have been created in the last five years but in reality, only 2,200 jobs have been provided, he said.
The Congress MP claimed that there are more than 4,100 vacancies in the state police alone. He asserted that the Congress will create 1 lakh jobs for unemployed youths if it comes to power in the upcoming assembly polls.
Tharoor said the Congress will take steps to make entrepreneurship more attractive for the youths. He claimed that Mizoram has the dubious distinction of having one of the highest incidences of cancer in the country and said that hospital infrastructure must be strengthened to deal with the disease.
If Congress comes to power in Mizoram, the government will provide health insurance cover of Rs 15 lakh to each family for cashless treatment in hospitals, Tharoor said.
Tharoor arrived in Aizawl on Friday on a two-day visit to campaign for party candidates. He will address a gathering on Saturday evening, before leaving for Delhi on Sunday. Elections to the 40-member Mizoram Assembly will be held in a single phase on November 7 and votes polled will be counted on December 3.
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI)