Aizawl, April 10: The 696,448-strong electorate will decide the fate of three contestants for Mizoram’s single Lok Sabha seat in 1,126 polling stations across the state tomorrow after the Election Commission deferred the polls from April 9 to April 11.
The highlight of tomorrow’s polls is the extension of voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) system, used in 10 constituencies in Aizawl during last year’s Assembly polls, to all the eight district headquarters and other urban areas. In all, it will be available at 385 polling stations in the Lok Sabha polls. Byelection to the Hrangturzo Assembly seat in Serchhip district, left vacant by chief minister Lal Thanhawla, will be held simultaneously.
“We have this time extended the VVPAT facility to 13 towns — including the eight district headquarter towns. All election officials have left for their respective destinations. The stage is set for the elections,” Ashwani Kumar, Mizoram’s chief electoral officer, told The Telegraph this evening.
Tight security measures have been clamped across the state, including the inter-state and international borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh, to conduct the polls in a free and fair manner. Eight companies of central paramilitary forces and six battalions of state security forces have been deployed.
Forty of the 1,126 polling stations, mainly along the borders, have been declared “critical”.
The Lok Sabha poll will see a triangular contest between Congress candidate C.L. Ruala, United Democratic Front (UDF) nominee Robert Romawia Royte and Aam Aadmi Party’s M. Lalmanzuala.
While Ruala, 79, is aiming for his second stint in Lok Sabha, Royte, 47, is a newcomer in politics.
Lalmanzuala, a retired IAS officer, had floated a party called Mipui Tangrual Pawl (United People’s Party) before the 2008 Assembly polls and contested from Aizawl North-I seat but lost to a Congress candidate.
The UDF is an eight-party alliance formed in March this year and comprises three major Opposition parties — Mizo National Front (MNF), Mizoram People’s Conference (MPC) and Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP) and smaller parties. The front is supporting the BJP-led NDA .
The state chief electoral officer, Ashwani Kumar, said all electors, including 354,514 women, have elector’s photo identity cards (EPICs).
The run-up to the Lok Sabha election has been a low-profile one, except for the statewide three-day shutdown called by the state’s most influential NGOs and students’ organisations from April 7, which compelled the poll panel to reschedule the polling date. The bandh was in protest against casting of votes by Bru refugees in Tripura relief camps.
The bandh was called off after the Election Commission gave an assurance that the Bru refugees would no longer exercise their right to franchise from outside Mizoram in future elections. Of the 35,000 refugees living in the relief camps, 11,243 are enrolled in Mizoram’s voter list. The refugees registered over 71 per cent voter turnout.
The UDF is aiming at a repeat of 1980 and 1998 Lok Sabha polls when combined parties won.
In 1980, R. Rothuama, a nominee of the Steering Committee, an alliance of then Opposition Congress and allies, defeated ruling People's Conference candidate Brig. C. Vankunga. In 1998, H. Lallungmuana, an Independent supported by Citizens Common Front (CCF), MNF (Nationalist) now called ZNP, and Mizoram People’s Conference (MPC) defeated his nearest ruling Congress rival John Lalsangzuala by 41 votes in a six-cornered contest.
In 1999 Lok Sabha polls, the Mizo National Front (MNF) and the MPC formed an alliance and nominated Vanlalzawma, who won the elections defeating his nearest rival, Rokamlova of the Congress. The Opposition alliance, however, failed to win in 2004. The Opposition combine of Congress, ZNP and MPC fielded Laltluangliana Khiangte. But he was defeated by MNF candidate Vanlalzawma by 23,694 votes.