If there’s anything the Mizoram’s chief minister-in-waiting--Lalduhoma--dislikes the most, it is duplicity and double-standards. And he equates these traits with the Congress.
The 74 year-old former IPS officer should know. He spent a few years in the Congress and was very close to Indira Gandhi as well as Rajiv Gandhi.
In fact, it was at the insistence of the latter that he resigned from the IPS and plunged into politics in 1984, a few months before Indira Gandhi was assassinated (on October 31 that year).
Born into a poor family at Tualpui village in Mizoram’s eastern Champhai district bordering Myanmar on February 22, 1949, Lalduhoma excelled in academics and passed matriculation with flying colours.
He caught the eye of the state’s first chief minister, C. Chhunga, who appointed the young Lalduhoma as the principal assistant in the CM’s office in 1972.
While serving in that post, Laldumoa enrolled in the Gauhati University’s undergrad evening course and graduated with distinction. He appeared for the civil services exams and made it to the IPS in 1977.
Catching Indira Gandhi’s attention
Lalduhoma was posted as a young police officer in Goa and is credited with busting drug rackets and smuggling networks in the coastal state. He gained the reputation as a tough, no-nonsense officer and was written about in the national media.
The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi met him on a visit to Goa and she was so impressed by him that she got him transferred to the Delhi Police, where he got a special promotion as deputy commissioner of police, in 1982.
Lalduhoma was then appointed the head of the Prime Minister’s security team and entrusted with the responsibility of looking after the PM’s security.
As head of Indira Gandhi’s security, Lalduhoma also got close to Rajiv Gandhi who had started assisting his mother after the death of his brother (Sanjay Gandhi) in a plane crash in June 1980.
Lalduhoma’s close proximity to the Gandhis became well known and he was made the secretary of the organising committee of the 1982 Asian Games. The committee was chaired by Rajiv Gandhi.
The successful conduct of the Asian Games brought the Mizo IPS officer closer to the Gandhis, who started discussing the possibility of his joining politics sometime in 1983.
Joining the Congress
Lalduhoma resigned from the IPS in December 1983 and formally joined the Congress the next month.
The Mizo insurgency, led by the then proscribed Mizo National Front (MNF), was at its peak that time and Indira Gandhi was keen to negotiate a settlement with MNF leader Laldenga who was in exile in London.
Indira Gandhi entrusted Lalduhoma with the task of convincing Laldenga to hold peace talks with the Government of India. Lalduhoma travelled to London and met the MNF chief.
He (Lalduhoma) was successful in convincing Laldenga that Mizoram required peace and an end to insurgency, which had taken many lives and caused immense suffering to the Mizos.
Laldenga agreed to hold peace talks with the Government of India. Lalduhoma recorded (on a tape-recorder) a statement by Laldenga that the Congress party was keen on honouring the wishes of the Mizos for peace.
That recorded message, which was played out at all election meetings of the Congress in the state in the run-up to the Assembly elections of April 1984, generated a massive wave in favour of the Congress.
The Congress won 20 of the 30 Assembly seats in the state and came to power unseating the Mizoram People's Conference. But Lalduhoma, who contested from the Lunglei seat on a Congress ticket, lost.
Indira Gandhi intervened and asked the then state governor to appoint her favourite (Lalduhoma) as vice-chair of the Mizoram State Planning Board with cabinet rank.
Lalduhoma was elected president of the state Congress in May 1984. He devoted himself to the ongoing negotiations for a peace agreement that would end the insurgency in the state.
His efforts yielded significant results and the contours of an agreement with the MNF was finalised. He convinced Indira Gandhi to meet Laldenga before the deal with the MNF was finalised and signed.
Laldenga flew down from London to Delhi. It was decided that Lalduhoma would take Laldenga to Indira Gandhi’s residence (1, Safdarjung Road) late afternoon of October 31, 1984.
But fate intervened and Indira Gandhi was assassinated that very morning by her Sikh security guards.
Lalduhoma won the December 1984 Lok Sabha elections from the state’s only parliamentary seat.
Disillusionment with the Congress sets in
But severe infighting and factionalism within the Congress in Mizoram compelled him to step down as president of the state unit of the party that same month.
A section of central Congress leaders who were jealous of Lalduhoma had engineered dissent against him in the state Congress unit. With Indira Gandhi no more and Rajiv Gandhi (who had just taken over as the Prime Minister) occupied with running the country, Lalduhoma had no one to turn to to keep his adversaries within the party at bay.
Nonetheless, Lalduhoma kept pursuing the peace negotiations (with the MNF) which had received a setback with Indira Gandhi’s death.
But he soon realised that powerful sections within the Congress were vehemently opposed to a peace deal with the MNF. Many top Congress leaders convinced Rajiv Gandhi that the time was not right for peace talks with the MNF.
These Congress leaders told Rajiv Gandhi that the MNF had become weak and holding talks with the proscribed outfit would only grant the outfit a lot of prominence at the cost of the Congress in Mizoram.
These leaders also managed to convince Rajiv Gandhi, who was known for his credulity, that Lalduhoma was secretly sympathetic to the MNF and was working in the interests of the MNF and against the Congress.
Rajiv Gandhi fell for those machinations and started keeping a distance from Lalduhoma even in Parliament. He stonewalled Laldumo’s repeated requests to carry forward the peace talks with the MNF and even refused to meet the Mizo Congress leader who was, till only a few months ago, very close to him and his mother.
Resignation from Congress
Feeling abandoned and angry with the Congress leaders as well as a naive Rajiv Gandhi turning his back on him, Lalduhoma resigned from the membership of the Congress in 1986 and formed the Mizo National Union (MNU).
But he did not resign from membership of the Lok Sabha. That allowed the Congress leaders who were opposed to Lalduhoma to move the then Lok Sabha Speaker Balram Jakhar (who had been a senior Congress leader) to disqualify Lalduhoma under the anti-defection law which had been unanimously passed by the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha in end-January 1985.
Lalduhoma was blindsided by this move and the disqualification proceedings were conducted swiftly. Lalduhoma became the first MP to be disqualified under this Act in November 1988.
He was bitter that Rajiv Gandhi did not come to his rescue and save him from the ignominy. He lost his Lok Sabha membership and became a bitter critic of Rajiv Gandhi and the Congress.
Bitter critic of Congress
Since then, Lalduhoma has been a bitter critic of the Congress and has often described the party as a ‘snake pit’ and ‘party of corrupt, self-serving leaders’ who have ‘complete disregard for national interests’.
But after leaving the Congress and forming the MNU in 1986, Lalduhoma also floated the ‘Action for Peace Committee’ that year to put pressure on the Union Government to hold peace talks with the MNF.
This forum received widespread support from all sections of people in Mizoram and ultimately, the Union Government invited Laldenga for talks. The Mizo Peace Accord was signed on June 30, 1986.
After the formal end of insurgency, the MNF transformed itself into a political party. Lalduhoma joined the party for a short period as an advisor, but soon parted ways and formed the MNF (Nationalist).
The MNF (Nationalist) was renamed the Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP) in 1997. Lalduhoma was elected to the Mizoram Assembly for the first time on a ZNP ticket in 2003.
The ZNP formally joined the Zoram People's Movement before the 2018 Assembly elections. The ZPM named him as its chief ministerial candidate.
But since the ZPM was not a registered political party, Lalduhoma contested and won as an Independent candidate from two constituencies, defeating incumbent Congress Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla from one seat (Serchhip).
Disqualification from the Mizoram Assembly
Lalduhoma was elected leader of opposition in the state Assembly. He also continued to be leader of the ZPM, which gained formal recognition as a political party (by the Election Commission) only in 2019.
But Lalduhoma ran into trouble unexpectedly once again when some MLAs of the ruling MNF wrote to the Speaker that Lalduhoma had violated the anti-defection act since he served as a leader of the ZPM after being elected as an Independent.
Under a clause of the Anti-Defection Act, an MLA (or MP) can be disqualified if he joins a political party after being elected as an Independent candidate.
The Speaker ruled in favour of the petitioners and Lalduhoma was once again disqualified in November 2020. He also became the first MLA in the country to be disqualified under the Anti-Defection Act.
Lalduhoma, and many others, felt that the disqualification was unfair since he was a leader of the unregistered ZPM when he was elected as an Independent MLA. “Since the ZPM was not a registered political party (in 2018), I had to contest as an Independent. It was never the case that I joined the ZPM after being elected,” Lalduhoma told Swarajya.
“But such disappointments are part of politics and life. One cannot expect others to always be fair. People will act unfairly and vengefully and one has to accept that, especially in politics,” he added.
In the byelections for the Serchhip seat held in early April 2021, Lalduhoma avenged his unfair disqualification by defeating the MNF candidate by a huge number of votes. He returned to the Assembly and vowed to unseat the MNF from power.
Lalduhoma has now fulfilled his vow by decimating the MNF. An earlier vow of his--to decimate the Congress and reduce it to a non-entity in Mizoram, has also come true.
“The Congress stands for double-standards, hypocrisy and duplicity. It will say one thing and do exactly the opposite. That party can never be trusted. It’s leaders are also very dishonest and two-faced,” said the CM-in-waiting.
Lalduhoma is now set to become the 10th chief minister of Mizoram.
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