'Unfinished task' keeps Sailo fighting at 86

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Aizawl, Nov 11(UNI) Had he been an ordinary Mizo, Brigadier (retd) T Sailo would have retired long from outdoor activities. But even though being on the wrong side of 80, he has miles to go before he sleeps.

Memories came flooding back to the 86-year-old former chief minister's mind as he filed his nomination papers for the December two elections to the 40-seat Mizoram Assembly here yesterday to become the oldest chief ministerial candidate in this tiny Northeastern state.

In 1978, Sailo, then a dynamic retired Army officer, had filed his nomination as the chief ministerial candidate of a newly-formed People's Conference (PC) that swept the year's Mizoram UT Assembly elections. Thirty years later, the Mizoram People's Conference (then PC)'s chief was pitched as the next Mizoram Chief Minister by the United Democratic Alliance, an electoral alliance he had formed with another regional party Zoram Nationalist Party and a civic organisation Zoram Kuthnathawktu Pawl.

In the mid-seventies when Laldenga's Mizo National Front-led insurgency in Mizoram was at its peak, Sailo came to Mizoram as a 'guardian' to the helpless Mizos who were literally living between 'the hammer and the anvil' the MNF guerillas and the 'trigger-happy' Indian Army.

The frightened Mizos found a guardian in Sailo and elected him their chief minister in 1978 which he held continuously, except for a few months of President's Rule, till 1984.

Among others, the Sailo ministry had initiated the Aizawl city extension project, Bairabi hydel project and the Greater Aizawl Water Supply Scheme (GAWSS) Phase-I, which Sailo alleged had never been taken up by the successive governments of Congress and MNF.

Designed for about 80,000 people (then the population of Aizawl), the GAWSS Phase-I is now feeding more than the two lakhs population of the state capital.

The Zoramthanga government has 'inaugurated' GAWSS Phase-II last year, but not a single drop of water has come out from it, Sailo alleged.

'' During these more than twenty years, none of my 'six basic needs' programme - power, wet rice cultivation and agricultural self-sufficiency projects among others were continued by the successive governments of Congress and MNF,'' the octogenarian rued.

After retiring from active politics ten years back, Sailo has been 'forced' to limp back to politics to 'finish his unfinished tasks. '' I can't rest until a I see my thirty-year-old six-basic-needs programme is fulfilled,'' Sailo told UNI here today.

Sailo is pitted at Aizawl West-II constituency against ruling MNF first-timer and social worker Lalruatkima and Congress' lone lady candidate Zothankimi.

The split of Sailo's party Mizoram People's Conference (MPC) by its rebel vice-president Dr J V Hluna a few days back is 'not going to reduce the party's strength,' according to MPC spokesman and Tawi constituency candidate Dr Kenneth Chawngliana.

The breakaway group christened Reformed MPC has now tied up with the ruling MNF for the coming elections.

UNI ZS KK/src1658

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