Aizawl, Dec 9 (IANS) The Congress retained power in Mizoram for the second consecutive time, winning 21 of the 40 seats as the vote count progressed Monday.
Congress leader and Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, 71, was elected to the state assembly for a record ninth time. He contested from two places in central Mizoram and won both seats.
This is for the fifth time the Congress has come to power in the northeastern state of Mizoram, which shares borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh. In the outgoing assembly, the Congress had 32 seats.
"Congress candidates are leading in six more seats over their opposition nominees," Mizoram Joint Chief Electoral Officer H. Lalengmawia told IANS.
Thousands of Congress activists celebrated here and across the state as election results began to pour in.
According to election officials, Congress candidates won 21 seats and were leading in six seats while the opposition three-party alliance Mizo National Front (MNF)-led Mizoram Democratic Alliance (MDA) has won two seats and was ahead in three seats in this state of over one million people.
Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, also state Congress chief, contested from two constituencies and won both Serchhip and Hrangturzo seats defeating his nearest MNF and Mizoram People's Conference (MPC) rivals.
Lal Thanhawla, who with this election has been elected to the state assembly for a record nine times since 1978, defeated his nearest MNF rival C. Lalramzauva, a lawyer and a three-term former legislator, in Serchhip by a margin of 734 votes while he retained the Hrangturzo seat beating MPC opponent Lalthansanga by 1,628 votes.
State Industries and Tourism minister S. Hiato lost his Saiha constituency to MNF nominee K. Beichhua by a narrow margin of 222 votes.
Officials said that Mizoram Home Minister and Congress candidate R. Lalzirliana won the Tawi seat defeating MNF nominee Lalmalsawmi by 947 votes.
Mizoram's Law and School Education Minister and Congress nominee Lalsawta retained his Aizawl East II seat defeating his nearest MNF candidate Sailothanga Sailo by a margin of just 177 votes.
Food, Civil Supplies, Environment and Forest Minister and Congress candidate H. Rohluna retained his Lengteng seat in southern Mizoram defeating his MNF candidate L. Thangmawia by a narrow margin of 167 votes.
Only non-Mizo Congress candidate and Chakma tribe leader Buddha Dhan Chakma won the Tuichawng seat in southern Mizoram beating MNF nominee Rasik Mohan Chakma by a big margin of 8,726 votes.
"In the South Tuipui seat, sitting Congress legislator John Siamkunga retained the seat defeating opposition ZNP (Zoram Nationalist Party) nominee J. Lalchhuana by a margin of 1568 votes," officials told reporters.
Senior Congress leader S. Laldingliana retains his Lunglei South seat defeating his nearest MNF candidate K. Pachhunga by 450 votes.
Unlike the last assembly polls in 2008, the Congress did well in both southern and northern Mizoram which shares borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh.
MNF candidate Lalrinawma wrested the Tuikum seat defeating Congress aspirant K. Lianzuala by a thin margin of only 14 votes.
Monday's vote count would decide the political fate of 142 candidates, including six women.
"Under tight security blanket, counting of ballots have been under way in eight district headquarters simultaneously since 8 a.m. Final results are likely to be out by late afternoon or by evening," Mizoram Joint Chief Electoral Officer H. Lalengmawia told IANS.
Over 81 percent of the total 690,860 voters exercised their franchise across the state Nov 25 to elect a new 40-member assembly.
The main poll battle was between the ruling Congress and opposition coalition MDA, comprising Mizo National Front (MNF), Mizoram People's Conference (MPC) and Maraland Democratic Front (MDF), all regional and local parties.
MDA's constituents MNF, MPC and MDF have fielded candidates for 31, eight and one seat respectively.
With little base in the Christian dominated northeastern state, the Bharatiya Janata Party put up 17 candidates, Zoram Nationalist Party named 38 candidates and the Nationalist Congress Party had two aspirants.
Of the 40 assembly seats, 39 are reserved for tribals. One seat is for the general category.
Reang tribal refugees, sheltered in seven camps in Tripura for the past 16 years, have cast their votes in Tripura through postal ballots for the Mizoram assembly polls.
During the last assembly elections in December 2008, the Congress won 32 seats, the MNF three and the MDF one. The MPC and ZNP got two seats each.
The MNF, which ruled the state for 10 years till 2008, is the principal opposition party.
With a total population of 1,091,014, Mizoram is the only state in India where women voters outnumbered men by 9,806 in the total electorate of 690,860.