New Delhi/Aizawl, Oct. 23: The Election Commission has advanced the polling date for Mizoram to November 25, making way for the Mizoram Synod to hold its statewide conference on the earlier polling date of December 4.
The counting has also been postponed by a day to December 9, facilitating the predominantly Christian population to attend its Sunday church service. Counting for the other four poll-bound states will, however, remain unchanged.
Most of Mizoram’s population is Christian and of it, the majority is Presbyterian Christians. The Mizoram Synod is a confederation of all Presbyterian organisations and had decided on its schedule much earlier, Lai council leader Hmun Hre said over phone from Aizawl.
Soon after, representations were received by the Election Commission from various political parties and religious organisations of the state to change the polling and counting dates.
The commission, after considering the inputs and representations, has decided to revise the schedule for the elections to the Legislative Assembly of Mizoram, the poll panel said in a statement today.
“It has been brought to notice of the commission that casting of votes on December 4, 2013, would be inconvenient for a large segment of the people. Similarly, it has been brought to the notice of the commission that December 8 being a Sunday would be inconvenient for a segment of the people for whom Sunday has special significance,” commission secretary Sumit Mukherjee said in the statement.
The gazette notification for the polls will be issued on November 1 and the last date for filing nominations is November 8.
In Aizawl, the Congress held its first major convention for party workers today and sources said it was “well-attended”.
The contest here is between the Congress and the joint force of the Mizo National Front and Mizoram People’s Forum.
The sigh of collective relief was almost as audible as the news that the Election Commission had shifted the polling date.
The most relieved was the office of the Mizoram chief electoral officer.
“This has lifted a heavy burden from our shoulders. We are happy that the issue has been resolved to the satisfaction of all. The advancement of the polling has been welcomed by all our officials engaged in the districts,” H Lalengmawia, the joint chief electoral officer, told The Telegraph in Aizawl this evening.
K.L. Liantlinga, MLA and vice-president of the Zoram Nationalist Party, said his party had supported the demand of the church groups as the Constitution gives all people the right to practise their religion without any interference. “The positive reaction by the commission will help in maintaining the secular nature of our Constitution.”
He was, however, critical of the Centre and poll panel for failing to take the views of people before deciding on the poll schedule.
“I wish we had not come to this tussle but I mostly blame the state government for failing to apprise the poll panel of the ground situation,” he said. He said he failed to understand how the commission did not realise the importance of Sunday for Christians.
The Mizoram PCC was jubilant, as they had sent a delegation led by Lok Sabha MP C.L. Ruala to the poll panel recently to follow up on the representations sent by political parties and church organisations.
“We are happy the commission has listened to the wishes of church groups. It is their victory, as the political parties are simply the instruments to fulfil the people’s demands,” said Thanglawra Ngurte, member secretary of the media wing of the Mizoram Congress.
Members of the Mizoram Kohhran Hruaitute Committee (joint platform of all Christian groups), Lalramliana Pachuau and R. Lalrinsanga, thanked the commission for listening to their demand and said they were relieved that everything was settled. As did Lalramthanga, general secretary of the Mizoram People’s Forum (MPF), who had set the ball rolling for the advancement.
At the same time, there were some people who questioned the decision of the Christian groups of going on a collision course with the poll panel. “An annual conference of the church could have been easily shifted to another day unlike Sunday, which is of course a touchy issue. An election is held once in five years and we should not do anything to erode the power of the poll panel in any way,” said a college teacher.
Bhupen Kumar Borah, AICC secretary in-charge of Mizoram and Tripura, who was part of the delegation that met the chief election commissioner on Monday for rescheduling the poll date, hailed the panel for respecting the sentiments of the people. “The advancement will now ensure that everyone, including church leaders, will be able to exercise their franchise.”