Meet the council of elders that decided Mizoram’s next chief minister - Hindustan Times

Lalduhoma, who was sworn in as Mizoram's CM today, owes his appointment to a unique feature of his party’s organisation

Dec 08, 2023 01:31 PM IST

The victorious ZPM has a Val Upa Council that is made up of 15 prominent elderly people. It named the person to lead the government if the party won the polls

The Congress took a few days to announce its chief minister in Telangana; the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is still to announce its decision on who will head its governments in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, as, no doubt, hectic parlays ensue in the party high command.

Lalduhoma (right) was sworn in by Mizoram Governor Hari Babu Kambhampati on Friday as the state's chief minister.(ANI) PREMIUM
Lalduhoma (right) was sworn in by Mizoram Governor Hari Babu Kambhampati on Friday as the state's chief minister.(ANI)

In Mizoram — the fifth state that held elections in this cycle — where Zoram Peoples’ Movement (ZPM) stormed to power ousting the Mizo National Front (MNF), the decision-making was far more streamlined.

On Friday, ZPM party president Lalduhoma, a 74-year-old former Indian Police Service officer, was sworn in as the state’s new CM. Earlier in the week, he was unanimously elected by the party’s new legislators to lead the government, but the real selection had already taken place last year, when the party’s Val Upa Council (VUC) chose him to lead the party if it won the elections.

The VUC is a committee comprising several prominent citizens of Mizoram who are not politicians — Val Upa in the Mizo language means elderly people. The VUC is a unique feature of ZPM — no other party in the state including the MNF, which had been in power for many terms since the formation of the state in 1987, has such a body of elders, who are not politicians but influence important party matters. No other political party in the northeast has a similar council of elders which occupies a similarly prominent position.

“The ZPM council provides that VUC will decide on who will be the chief minister if the party wins. Last year, the council selected Lalduhoma’s name for the post. On Tuesday, the new party MLAs decided on his name, but it was just a formality on what was earlier decided by the VUC,” said Thangchungnunga, a retired professor of economics at Mizoram University, who is the secretary of the council.

Even Lalduhoma mentioned the VUC hours after his party emerged victorious. “The chief minister is to be selected by the elders’ council. They had already selected me last year and announced to the people that if ZPM comes to power, Lalduhoma will be the chief minister. That is known by the people since last year,” he told an ANI reporter in Aizawl.

The council also has a say on the formation of the new cabinet though the CM will have the final word in this matter. The VUC members held a meeting with Lalduhoma on the matter on Thursday.

“The chief minister in consultation with the VUC decides on who the members of his cabinet will be and what portfolios will be handed over to them. We are witness to that. The CM presents a list of candidates for the cabinet berths and the VUC will endorse it,” said Thangchungnunga.

How the council is chosen

ZPM, a regional party formed in 2017 and registered with Election Commission two years later, stormed to power ousting MNF, the prominent regional party in the state for decades, winning 27 of the total 40 seats.

ZPM was formed by the merger of six smaller outfits, each of which nominated two members to the VUC.

The members are prominent elderly citizens like former IAS officers, church elders etc. The ZPM constitution allows for 15 members — 10 of whom select the other five. The 10 members also select a chairman, vice-chairman and secretary for a term of three years. All members are appointed for life. If some member dies or can’t remain part of it due to health or other issues, the council can relieve them and select someone else. At present there are 11 active members.

The chairman of VUC is Lalfakzuala, a retired IAS officer who was a former chief secretary of Mizoram. There are two other retired IAS officers in the current council, besides three pastors and other prominent citizens in different fields.

“The council also has consultations with ministers to give counselling and if necessary, checks them if there is something wrong. We are supposed to correct them. If a minister is not doing his work properly or if there are complaints against him, we can consult and exhort him (to work well). Our word can’t be final, but we can give guidance,” said Thangchungnunga.

“ZPM’s VUC is a council of elderly citizens who make important decisions. It is a unique feature of the party, but we will have to wait and see if it functions uniquely. It is interesting since VUC members are not politicians. The party constitution says that it can play a part in ensuring good governance. Let’s see [how it performs],” said J Doungel, professor of political science in Mizoram University.

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    Utpal is a Senior Assistant Editor based in Guwahati. He covers seven states of North-East India and heads the editorial team for the region. He was previously based in Kathmandu, Dehradun and Delhi with Hindustan Times.

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