As tempers fly over dates,Mizoram parties want poll chief removed

Kumar had laid down the issues under consideration in the state,and given his views on them.

Written by Adam Halliday | Aizawl | Published: October 18, 2013 2:40 am

Six political parties in Mizoram on Thursday submitted a joint memorandum to the Election Commission of India demanding the removal of Mizoram’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Ashwani Kumar.

The submission came hours after representatives of these parties walked out of a meeting with Kumar to discuss their requests to reschedule dates set for voting and counting.

Church leaders present at the meeting threatened they may in the future be unable to support the EC if their request was not accepted.

Representatives of the Congress,BJP,TMC,MNF,Mizoram People’s Conference and Zoram Nationalist Party were there,besides some NGOs.

The parties,NGOs and church leaders from a dozen denominations had last week written to the CEO requesting that polling be shifted to November 25 from December 4 as two large denominations — the Presbyterians and the Pentecostals — have annual meetings around that time.

The churches also want counting to be on any day other than Saturday and Sunday. Counting is scheduled for December 8,a Sunday,which is a holy day for Christians who are close to 90 per cent of the state’s population.

At Thursday’s meeting,CEO Kumar said the ECI had discussed the requests,and had conveyed to him it would be “really difficult” to reschedule the polls,and that it was “scared of setting a precedent”.

The politicians,church leaders and NGO representatives accused Kumar of unilaterally suggesting new dates in a letter he had written to the EC on October 11. In that letter,Kumar had laid down the issues under consideration in the state,and given his views on them.

Rev. C Biakmawia of the Presbyterian church and Rev. Lalzuithanga,Synod executive secretary,said,“If the EC cannot cooperate with us,we may in the future find it difficult to cooperate with the ECI. You do not mind about our people who cannot cast their votes. You do not care about our religious sentiments.”

Kumar said,“I was told to appeal to you. I cannot prevail upon you. If you feel I am not toeing your line,please do not expect me to parrot your views.”

At a press conference later in the day,the party representatives said,“The CEO has disrespected Mizos and not giving importance to our request. We feel the CEO is not mature enough to conduct the upcoming elections,and have therefore requested the Chief Election Commissioner to remove and replace him.”

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