A third of Mizoram votes

Aizawl, April 11: Nearly a third of the electorate cast their ballot Friday in the first three hours in the lone Lok Sabha constituency and a by-poll for an assembly seat in Mizoram, officials here said.

Balloting for both Lok Sabha and assembly seat was earlier scheduled April 9 and it was postponed to Friday due to a three-day shutdown and boycott call by NGOs and students’ groups.

An Election Commission official said that the balloting was peaceful so far and no untoward incident was reported from anywhere in the state that borders Myanmar and Bangladesh.

“Young, new and women voters wearing traditional costumes lined up well before the polling stations open at 7 a.m. First time voters are very excited to cast their ballots,” the official told IANS.

The polling will end at 5 p.m., one hour more than the previous elections.

Mizoram’s lone Lok Sabha constituency this time is seeing a triangular battle between sitting member 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 (BJP).

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. The by-election 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’s 702,189 electorate, including 355,954 women, would decide the fate of three candidates in the lone Lok Sabha constituency.

Around 4,500 polling personnel have been engaged in 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.

Security arrangements have been made across the mountainous state, which shares borders with Myanmar (404 km) and Bangladesh (318 km), besides Tripura and Assam.

Eight companies of central paramilitary forces and six battalions of state security forces have been deployed.

Polling in Mizoram was deferred to Friday due to a three-day shutdown and poll boycott call by NGOs and students’ groups in the state.

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.

IANS