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Alcohol could swing political fortunes in Mizoram

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Aizawl, Nov 24: In Christian-majority Mizoram, the issue of liquor prohibition could form the basis of a swing vote against the incumbent Congress in Mizoram. All political parties have liquor on their manifestos, be it to abstain or to indulge mildly or just go ahead with it. While the Congress is for selective prohibition, the MNF has made an absolute ban on the sale and consumption of liquor its pet electoral issue.

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The state has a total population of about 10 lakh people only, but elections here are being seen as very important for the Congress and and Mizoram National Party (MNF), who have ruled Mizoram ever since it it became a full-fledged state in 1987, as also for the BJP that sees it as the 'final frontier' in the North-East.

Assembly elections: How Mizoram voted in 2013

While the ruling Congress is against total prohibition, the main opposition MNF wants a complete ban. The BJP has taken a middle path by proposing to ban the liquor coming from outside the state and encourage only locally produced ones.

When the state Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla was in office for his third term, he introduced the Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition Act banning sale and consumption of alcohol effective from February 20, 1997.

In 2007, the Act was amended during the MNF chief minister Zoramthanga's rule to allow wine to be made from guavas and grapes, but with restrictions on the alcohol content and the volume possessed.

During Thanhawla's fifth term, Mizoram repealed prohibition on July 10, 2014.

The powerful Presbyterian Church had organised mass prayers in all member churches across the state twice that year against repeal of the prohibition.

The MLPC Act came into force from January 15, 2015, while the first wine shop under the new law was opened on March 16, 2015.

According to the Mizoram Excise & Narcotics Department website, deaths due to liquor consumption have been on a rise from 9 in 2015 to 22 in 2016 and to 59 in 2017.

Favouring control than prohibition, PRISM leader said people need to be made aware about ill affects of liquor and some changes can be made in the MLPC Act.

Zoramthanga, Hluna and Vanlalruata also pitched for home-made rice beer or locally produced liquor.

Except Mamit district, rest all seven districts -- Kolasib, Aizawl, Champhai, Serchhip, Lunglei, Lawngtlai and Siaha -- have higher number of female voters.

The Congress has been in power in Mizoram since 2008 and is eyeing the third consecutive term. In 2013 Assembly elections, the Congress won 34 seats, while the MNF had five and Mizoram People's Conference bagged one.

Mizoram will vote on November to decide who will form the next government in this highly-literate and Christian-majority state.While Congress and MNF are contesting in all the 40 constituencies this time, BJP is fighting in 39 seats and PRISM has put up candidates in 15 seats.

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