Wednesday, Nov 19, 2003
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By Barun Das Gupta
Lack of enthusiasm in the electorate and low-key campaigning were perceptible, except perhaps for the Congress poll meeting on Monday. While the central election rally of the party, addressed by Sonia Gandhi, was held in a hall which could barely accommodate 500 people, a huge crowd gathered outside and cheered her all the time.
There are 201 candidates in the fray for the 40-member House. The Congress is contesting all the seats, with the ruling MNF fielding candidates for 39 constituencies.
The Congress handicap was that the former Chief Minister and present PCC chief, Lalthanhawla, is being investigated by the Mizoram police for alleged corruption. But the MNF campaign has apparently not had much impact.
For a State which has the highest literacy rate after Kerala, the main poll issue, expectedly, is development quicker and all-round progress.
The Congress has promised to upgrade the Lengpui Airport near Aizawl to "international standards" and introduce central subsidy for a helicopter service to smaller towns. It has also reiterated its earlier "new land use scheme" to enable the rural poor to earn a sustainable living. The thrust of the MNF, on the other hand, was increased power generation and what it called a "thorough overhaul" of the school educational system. It promised to generate more revenue for the people by introducing schemes for cash crops, floriculture and horticulture.
The People's Conference, which ruled Mizoram in the seventies, struck a different line: it appealed to the Mizos to uphold Mizo nationalism by tracing their historical origin. It also wanted the inclusion of Mizo language in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution and make the educational curriculum job-oriented.
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