Aizawl, April 11: About 45 percent of the electorate cast their vote for the lone Lok Sabha seat from Mizoram and an assembly by-poll in the first seven hours of polling Friday, officials said here.
Mizoram’s joint chief electoral officer H. Lalengmawia said the polling was so far peaceful and no untoward incident was reported from anywhere in the state that borders Myanmar and Bangladesh besides Tripura and Assam.
“Around 45 percent polling was recorded till 2 p.m.,” he said.
Polling for both the Lok Sabha and the assembly seat was earlier scheduled April 9 but was postponed to Friday due to a three-day shutdown and boycott call by NGOs and students’ groups in Mizoram to protest voting by tribal refugees through postal ballot in Tripura relief camps.
“Voting was delayed in some polling stations after Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) developed technical snags. The ECIL (Electronic Corporation of India) engineers immediately either rectified the EVMs or replaced them and the balloting continued as usual,” the official told IANS.
Quoting reports from the districts, he said: “Young, new and women voters queued up much before the polling stations opened at 7 a.m. First time voters were very excited after casting their ballot.”
The polling will end at 5 p.m., one hour more than the earlier elections.
Mizoram’s lone Lok Sabha constituency this time will witness a triangular battle between incumbent C.L. Ruala of the Congress, Robert Romawia Royte of the United Democratic Front (UDF) and M. Lalmanzuala of the Aam Aadmi Party.
The main opposition UDF is an alliance of eight parties led by the Mizo National Front (MNF), which ruled the state for two terms (1998-2003 and 2003-08). The UDF is supported by the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The MNF had won the Lok Sabha seat, reserved for tribals, in 2004.
The by-election for the Hrangturzo assembly seat is also being held Friday. It was necessitated after Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, who won from two constituencies in the assembly polls held Nov 25, vacated the seat.
Vanlalawmpuii Chawngthu of the Congress is pitted against UDF leader H. Lalduhawma, who unsuccessfully contested the last election from the same seat.
With a population of 1,091,014, Mizoram has a 702,189-strong electorate, including 355,954 women, who would decide the fate of three candidates in the lone Lok Sabha constituency.
Around 4,500 polling personnel have been engaged at 1,126 polling stations, of which 385 centres, mainly in urban areas, would use the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system with the electronic voting machines.
The VVPAT, which was used in 10 assembly segments in last year’s polls in Mizoram, confirm the voting.
Polling in Mizoram was deferred to Friday due to the shutdown. Six voluntary organisations and students’ groups led by the Young Mizo Association called the three-day state-wide strike from April 7 and urged people to boycott the polls protesting the Election Commission’s decision to allow tribal refugees in Tripura to cast their votes through postal ballot.
Of the over 36,000 Reang tribal refugees living in seven camps in Tripura for the past 17 years after fleeing their villages in Mizoram, 11,500 were on electoral rolls in Mizoram and 71 percent of them voted through postal ballot last week.
In view of a threat by NGOs to obstruct counting of postal ballot papers in Aizawl, the poll panel decided to count them in Kanchanpur in north Tripura May 16, Kanchanpur Sub-Divisional Magistrate Nantu Das told IANS.
The Reang tribals – locally known as Bru – fled their villages in Mizoram and took shelter in neighbouring Tripura in October 1997 after an ethnic conflict broke out with the majority Mizos over the killing of a Mizo forest official.