Rahul Gandhi commenced the election campaign of the Congress party in Mizoram, pledging to preserve the rich cultural heritage, traditions, and language of the Mizo people. He also committed to fostering comprehensive development in the state if his party secures victory.
Gandhi’s visit began with a walk from Chanmari to the Treasury Square in Aizawl as part of the Bharat Jodo Yatra. During this stroll, he interacted with people from various walks of life, including youth, children, and individuals with disabilities. Gandhi showcased his respect for Mizo culture by donning a traditional Mizo hat, known as Khumbeu, and carrying an intricately woven sling bag, the Ipte Chei, as he covered nearly 4.5 kilometers.
Addressing the crowd, Gandhi praised the Mizos as “gentle, kind, and affectionate,” highlighting their spirit of selfless service, locally referred to as “tlawmngaihna.” He emphasized the core principle behind the newly formed opposition bloc, INDIA, which centers around showing respect and kindness to everyone.
Reflecting on his personal connection to the region, Gandhi shared an anecdote from his first visit to Mizoram in 1986 when he accompanied his father, Rajiv Gandhi, at the age of 16.
Switching to more pointed political discourse, Gandhi criticized the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF) for its inability to drive the state’s development. He raised concerns about the lack of infrastructure, job opportunities, and the escalating drug problem. Gandhi remarked that the MNF government had not effectively addressed the drug-related issues, leading to significant harm and loss of life among the youth. Moreover, he accused the MNF of failing to combat drug smuggling in the state.
Gandhi asserted that the youth turned to drugs due to the MNF’s inability to provide employment opportunities. In contrast, he claimed that the Congress party had a strong track record in governance.
The Congress leader then directed his criticism towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi, alleging that Modi appeared more focused on international matters like Israel, amid its conflict with Palestine’s Hamas, than addressing domestic issues such as the ethnic unrest in Manipur.
Gandhi also lamented the national media’s preoccupation with international affairs, stressing the need to address concerns among India’s minority communities, Dalits, and tribal populations. He viewed the issues in Manipur as symptomatic of broader problems across India.
Furthermore, Gandhi accused the BJP of attempting to erode the cultural traditions of Northeastern states, despite the awareness of the Mizo people. He pointed out that the MNF remained in alliance with the BJP despite these concerns.
Gandhi also highlighted successful policies implemented in Congress-ruled states, praising Karnataka’s social security system and various beneficial schemes, such as direct cash transfers, free travel for women, financial support for farmers, and affordable gas cylinders.
He commended Chhattisgarh for providing the highest remuneration for rice, boosting the state’s economy, and offering extensive health insurance and free medical treatment for critical illnesses. Additionally, he mentioned the support for local businesses and the establishment of 377 English-medium schools to provide education to underprivileged children.
In his critique of the BJP, Gandhi accused the party of harming small businesses and weakening farmers through policies like the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the 2016 demonetization.
Gandhi’s tightly packed schedule in Mizoram included meetings with party leaders and addressing the media in Aizawl, as well as a visit to Lunglei in the southern part of the state, where he held a public meeting. He concluded his visit by heading to Delhi via Agartala.
Mizoram is set to hold a single-phase election with 40 seats up for grabs on November 7, and the counting of votes will take place on December 3. The Congress party announced the names of 39 candidates on Monday.
Meanwhile, various political parties, churches, civil society organizations, and student bodies have jointly urged the Election Commission of India (ECI) to reschedule the voting date, as it falls on a Sunday, a sacred day for the Christian community in the state. Christians constitute approximately 87 percent of the population in Mizoram, according to the 2011 census.