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Mizoram poll spat gets uglier

- Lal Thanhawla refutes charges of EVM rigging by former pastor

Aizawl, March 7: The election season seems to be heating up in Mizoram with a spat between the chief minister and a church elder getting uglier by the day. The confrontation started in December last year after K. Chhawnthuama sent some offensive text messages to chief minister and state Congress president Lal Thanhawla under the pseudonym “Phantom”, alleging that the ruling Congress had won the Assembly elections as a result of “EVM rigging” and “misuse” of election machinery.

Chhawnthuama was arrested on December 20, 2013, three days after the chief minister lodged a complaint against the text messages. Although the SIM card was not used regularly, police investigators said the handset was traced to the church elder. Charged under Sections 500 (defamation) and 506 (criminal intimidation) IPC and Section 66-A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, Chhawnthuama appeared before the court for the third time on Tuesday, where his hearing was postponed to March 14.

But before that he continued his attack in an interview to a local television channel from his Durtlang home, alleging that Lal Thanhawla was aware about the “EVM rigging”. The chief minister in retaliation said, “He is a respectable man, a church elder and owner of a reputed school, who earns money from his wife’s monument. But his text messages were too obscene. I asked the police to investigate and he was found out.” Lal Thanhawla made the comments at his party’s weekly political session at Congress Bhavan yesterday.

Lal Thanhawla further said that Chhawnthuama had sent his son to him seeking his forgiveness after his arrest. “I said he had already been arrested by the police and there was no point talking about it. So I declined to meet his son,” he said.

Chhawnthuama is the owner of KV Paradise, dubbed as “Taj Mahal of Aizawl”, a three-storey mausoleum built in his wife’s memory. It is now a tourist attraction. This is why Lal Thanhawla had said he was “earning money from his wife’s monument”.

According to the chief minister, Chhawnthuama later sent a former synod of Mizoram Presbyterian Church, whom he met. “The retired pastor told me he was only a mediator asking for his forgiveness and was in no way involved in sending the threats. Being a God-fearing man, he told the truth.”

Lal Thanhawla said he had also alleged that deputy commissioners had been receiving bribes through such messages and it was possible the officials might also think about taking action against him. “He has not only charged the Congress party but also the Election Commission and the company that manufactured the EVMs,” he added.


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