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Mizoram: Govt mulls deferring polls, MHA objects to officer’s posting

Chuaungo’s removal snowballed into a major controversy ahead of elections, as political parties and civil society groups protested against CEO Shashank

On November 1, the EC ordered the removal of Chuaungo after State CEO S B Shashank, in a letter dated October 29, complained to the poll panel of “direct interference” by the state in the preparation for polls.

AMID THE ongoing row over appointment of Mizoram’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), the government is learnt to be “discussing” the possibility of postponing assembly elections in the state to December 7. The final decision will be taken by the Election Commission (EC), in consultation with the state government, said government sources.

Mizoram is scheduled to go to polls on November 28.

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is also learnt to have decided to contest the EC’s order on attachment of Mizoram Principal Secretary (Home Department) L Chuaungo with the MHA.

As first reported by The Indian Express on November 1, the EC ordered the removal of Chuaungo after State CEO S B Shashank, in a letter dated October 29, complained to the poll panel of “direct interference” by the state in the preparation for polls.

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Chuaungo’s removal snowballed into a major controversy ahead of elections, as political parties and civil society groups protested against CEO Shashank. Last week, Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding Shashank’s removal.

The EC has asked the state government to suggest names for the CEO’s post. Sources in the government said a decision on Shashank’s replacement would be taken soon. “The EC is examining the names for the top post. But with less than two weeks left, there is also a discussion on postponing polling to December 7,” said MHA sources.

“Since the term of the Mizoram Assembly ends on December 15, 2018, the new CEO will get time to make preparations after he is appointed. However, a change in date of elections in the state is a long-drawn process and will have to be done by bringing a notification. The final decision in this regard will be taken by the EC, in consultation with the state government,” said sources.

In his complaint, Shashank had alleged insensitivity on the part of the state regarding voting rights of the displaced Bru community living in relief camps in Tripura, and referred to the “active role” played by Chuaungo in the revision of electoral rolls and deployment of central security forces for the Assembly elections.

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Stating that Chuaungo’s continuance would have an “adverse impact on conduct of smooth, free and fair election process”, the EC had directed that he should be attached with the MHA.

But MHA officials said there is no provision, under the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) rules, to place Chuaungo with the ministry. The IAS officer will have to be sent back to his cadre after the state elections are over, they said.

Chuaungo was on deputation in Mizoram. “The officer is on deputation from Gujarat. Officers who are in AGMUT (Arunachal, Goa, Mizoram and Union Territories) service work only in these areas, and are not attached to MHA,” said a government official.

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When contacted, CEC O P Rawat said, “The commission has received no such proposal so far.”

The EC has defended Shashank and its decision to replace Chuaungo. In a letter addressed to the Principal Secretary to CM, Lalram Thanga, last week, the poll panel stated that its decision was taken “only after observing in great detail the sequence of events over the past two months”.

First published on: 14-11-2018 at 04:21 IST
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