Campaigning for elections to the 40-member Mizoram Assembly ended at 4 pm on Monday, setting the stage for polling on Wednesday when 7,70,395 people are expected to cast their votes in this northeastern state.
The election machinery is fully prepared to conduct free and fair polls, the state’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Ashish Kundra said. Speaking to reporters here, Kundra said he was “perfectly satisfied” with the arrangements.
Mizoram is the last bastion of the Congress in the northeast. The Congress has been in power in the state since 2008 and is eyeing a third consecutive term. In 2013 assembly elections, the Congress won 34 seats, while the Mizo National Front (MNF) had five and Mizoram People’s Conference bagged one seat.
The Congress and the main Opposition, the MNF, have fielded 40 candidates each, while the BJP is contesting in 39 seats. The Zoram Peoples Movement (ZPM), an alliance formed by two political parties and four groups, is contesting in 35 seats.
The Mizoram Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) said that public meetings and door-to-door canvassing were organised in villages under the close supervision of the Mizoram Peoples Forum (MPF), the church-sponsored election watchdog.
Unlike in the past, this time the MNF skipped the common platform where contesting candidates share a stage. The display of flags of political parties and posters were minimised under the supervision of the flying squads and the MPF.
Election campaign offices have been opened in all the villages and more than one campaign office have been set up in larger villages and towns. Supporters of contestants were seen visiting relatives in other villages to garner support.
Campaigning has come of age in the state with the use of social media platforms like Facebook and Whatsapp. Campaigning via TV and radio was done as previous years, however this time social media was used extensively to woo younger voters.
On the major poll issues, the ruling Congress was seen banking on its flagship New Land Use Policy (NLUP), which brought the party to power for two consecutive terms.
The campaign reached its peak in the final week with the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
Except Gandhi, who addressed a rally in the state capital, the other high profile leaders did not address an election rally in Aizawl city.
While Modi visited Aizawl on Friday to meet BJP candidates from the district and leaders of the civil societies, he addressed a rally in southern Mizoram’s Lunglei town.
Shah addressed rallies in southern Mizoram’s Lawngtlai town and northernmost Vairengte town. Gandhi addressed public rallies at Champhai located on the border with Myanmar, besides Aizawl city.
The prominent leaders who campaigned in the state included Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, DoNER Minister Jitendra Singh, National People’s Party (NPP) leader and Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma.
The Election Commission has decided to hold polling for Bru refugees in Mizoram’s Mamit district, even as the leaders of the tribal community maintained that they fear for their safety in their home state.
The place of voting for 11,232 Brus, who are residing in neighbouring Tripura, has been a bone of contention, leading to the replacement of the then chief electoral officer, S B Shashank, less than two weeks before the election.
Shashank had been accused of facilitating voting by Bru voters in the relief camps of Tripura.
The Congress has floated a new policy called New Economic Development Program (NEDP) as a convergence with the NLUP under which around Rs 1 lakh each was disbursed to each beneficiary family.
The opposition MNF has promised assistance to the tune of Rs 3 lakh to each family under the Socio-Economic Development Policy (SEDP), closure of liquor shops and imposition of prohibition as wished by the powerful church.
The BJP in Mizoram is riding on the development works of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.