Campaign ends, Mizoram to vote on Wednesday
Aizawl, Nov. 26 (IANS): The month-long campaign for the November 28 Assembly elections in Mizoram came to a close on Monday afternoon, with no major untoward incident reported from any part of the state so far.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, and Chief Ministers of Tripura, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland were among those undertaking hectic campaigns for their candidates.
The Election Commission has made elaborate arrangements to hold the elections and taken several security measures to ensure free and fair polls.
“Campaigning by the political parties has been totally peaceful so far. Every process is now going on smoothly,” Mizoram’s Joint Chief Electoral Officer Zorammuana told IANS on Monday.
Among the eight northeastern states, Mizoram is the last state ruled by a Congress government. The party has been in power except for 10 years — 1998 to 2008 — since the state become a full-fledged state in 1987.
Chief Electoral Officer Ashish Kundra said here that the officials escorted by the security personnel have already left for the 1,164 polling stations in eight districts.
He said that around 40 all-women managed polling stations have been set up across the constituencies in which the entire polling staff, including the police and security personnel, are women.
“The VVPAT (Voters Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) machines would be used along with EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines) in all the 40 constituencies to enhance transparency and credibility of the elections,” the Joint CEO told the media.
A total of 209 candidates, 67 higher than in 2013 state polls, are in the fray for the Wednesday’s Assembly elections.
Of the 209 candidates, 15 are women. In 2013, only six women had contested and none were successful.
Like the previous elections, women voters once again outnumber the men in Mizoram. Of the 768,181 voters, there are 393,685 women and 374,496 men.
The five-year term of the Mizoram Assembly ends on December 15.
The Election Commission has set up 15 polling stations at Kanhmun, a village along the Mizoram-Tripura border, to facilitate voting by Reang tribal refugees, sheltered in Tripura for the past 21 years.
Of the over 35,000 tribal immigrants, 11,232 are eligible to cast their votes in the Assembly elections.
The place of voting for the tribal refugee voters had become a highly contentious issue in the run-up to the Mizoram Assembly polls, leading to replacement of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) S.B. Shashank by Ashish Kundra, two weeks before the polling.
The refugees had demanded to set up polling stations in the seven refugee camps in northern Tripura, which was vehemently opposed by the powerful Mizoram NGO Coordination Committee (MNCC).
An agitation had been started by the MNCC demanding setting up of polling stations in different districts of Mizoram for taking the votes of the refugees.
The MNCC, led by influential Young Mizo Association, citing Election Commission’s 2014 circular about casting of votes by the refugees, held a massive state-wide agitation to remove Shashank from the post of CEO after Principal Secretary (Home) Lalnunmawia Chuaungo was removed on the Election Commission’s order.
The former CEO (S.B. Shashank) in his report to the Election Commission had reportedly said that Chuaungo was creating obstacles in allowing the Reang tribals to vote in the November 28 polls.
Chuaungo, a native of the tribal-dominated Mizoram, is a Gujarat-cadre IAS officer.
Lal Thanhawla confident of keeping BJP at bay in Mizoram
Asserting there is no anti incumbency, Lal Thanhawla, the longest-serving Chief Minister of Mizoram, is banking on good governance and development to retain the Congress last bastion in the north east.
Confident of victory and retaining power for a third consecutive term, he is sure of keeping the BJP at bay which rules six of the seven north eastern states either alone or in alliance.
“The BJP’s communal and divisive politics will not cut ice with the people of Mizoram. They are witnessing the destruction under the saffron rule in the neighbouring states and do not want to replicate that model of governance,” Lal Thanhawla, Chief Minister since 2008, told IANS in an interview.
“There is no anti-incumbency, person here very happy under the Congress rule. Mizoram is among the fastest growing states in the country with the state GDP higher than the national level. There is infrastructure, there are jobs, and Mizoram is the only state in north east where there is peace. Why would people want to disturb that peace,” he asked.
Ridiculing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah for their “rhetoric” of development, the Congress veteran said his government’s New Land Use Programme (NLUP) and New Economic Development Policy (NEDP) have made the people of Mizoram realise what development really means.
“People in India have only heard Modi and Shah talking about development but people in Mizoram know what actually development and prosperity look like,” he said adding that Mizoram ranked first among the small states and second among all states in health index prepared by the World Bank Group and NITI Aayog.
Talking about the BJP-RSS “communal” agenda, he questioned the intention behind the Modi government declaring 25 December as Good Governance Day.
“We are an absolute Christian majority state, and naturally when our festivals are disturbed it disturbs the people. This has been done intentionally otherwise. Why would they choose Christmas as Good Governance Day. Will they declare Dusshera for some day like that,” he asked.
Even as he rules BJP out of contention, Lal Thanhawla expressed apprehension over the saffron party’s “money power”.
“The entire country is aware how the BJP has come to power in north east using money power. They are flush with funds and pumping a lot of money with a view to purchase people. The battle is between money power and good governance and development and people here are sensible enough to know what is better for them,” he said.
He also countered the opposition Mizo National Front’s (MNF) persistent attack on his government over the decision to lift the over two-decade old ban on sale and consumption of alcohol.
“The ban was an absolute failure, it only lead to a thriving black market and people dying due to spurious liquor. The idea of creating an alcohol-free society through the prohibition was completely defeated and hence we had to lift it and bring in the permit system,” he said.
Besides the BJP, the Congress also faces a tough challenge from the MNF and other regional parties.
But the Congress veteran says it’s the work done by his government that is speaking for itself and asserts that his party will retain power in the state with absolute majority.
“Be it the MNF or the BJP, they have no answer to the prosperity that we have brought in the state. Their divisive and communal agenda is there for all to see. As I said, people of Mizoram are not willing the disturb the peace and prosperity that prevails. Anti-incumbency is only in the words of the opposition not in the minds of the voters,” he said asserting the Congress will win 37 seats — three more than it got in 2013.
In the predominantly-Christian state, the Congress has been in power since it became a full-fledged state in 1987, except for 10 years between 1998 to 2008.
Elections to the 40-member Assembly will be held on November 28. An electorate in excess of 7.6 lakh, including nearly 4 lakh women, are eligible to vote to decide the fate of 209 candidates.
The results will be declared on December 11.