Mizoram, April 6: The Election Commission of India (ECI) is yet to decide on the demand for deferment of the bypoll to Mizoram Serchhip Assembly constituency and the counting of votes, an election official said.
The Mizoram Serchhip bypoll and counting of votes are scheduled to be held on April 17 and May 2 respectively.
Earlier, Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga, different political parties and the Seventh Day Adventist church urged the poll panel to defer the polling and counting dates as both the days fall on Saturday and Sunday, which are sacred and important for the Christians.
Saturday is a sanctified day for certain Christian denominations in Mizoram, especially the Seventh Day Adventist Church which follows the Sabbath, a day of religious observance and abstinence from work. Sunday is also a holy day for Christians.
Seventh-Day Adventist church said many voters, belonging to the particular church, would not be able to exercise their franchise because Saturday is Sabbath (similar to Sunday) for them.
Mizoram joint chief electoral officer David Liansanglura Pachuau said the poll panel has recently approached the state Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) seeking information on the number of voters belonging exclusively to Seventh Day Adventist church in Serchhip constituency and the entire state.
He said the state ECO has already informed the poll panel about the number of voters from the Seventh Day Adventist church in the Serchhip constituency and the state.
“The ECI is yet to give response to the appeal to defer polling and counting dates,” he said.
According to Pachuau, the number of voters belonging to Seventh Day Adventist church members in the Serchhip assembly constituency is estimated to be about 248, which is 1.26 per cent of the total voters in this particular constituency.
The number of voters of Seventh Day Adventist church in the state is estimated to be about 16,845, which is 1.50% of the total voters in the state.
He said there are 19,295 voters, including 10,193 females in the Serchhip Assembly constituency.
Pachuau also said the bypoll preparedness is more or less completed.
He said at least one company of Central Armed Forces has been deployed for the bypoll and they will be assisted by Tripura Police.
Serchhip deputy commissioner and returning officer (RO) Kumar Abishek said at least 148 officials have been deployed as polling parties.
According to Pachuau, at least six candidates are in the fray for the bypoll.
Polling will be held in 29 polling stations where EVM will be used, he said.
The ruling Mizo National Front (MNF) has fielded its vice president and former Lok Sabha member Vanlalzawma while main opposition Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) fielded former Lok Sabha member and incumbent MLA Lalduhoma, whose disqualification under the anti-defection law in November last year necessitated the by-poll.
Congress has fielded former student leader and party general secretary P.C. Laltlansanga, BJP fielded former mining engineer Lalhriatrenga Chhangte and the People’s Conference fielded its vice president Vanlalruata.
One independent candidate Ramhlun-Edena is also up for the contest.
Political analysts said the upcoming bypoll is expected to see a neck-to-neck fight among the MNF, ZPM and Congress.
It will be a litmus test for Lalduhoma as he will face two giant rivals to retain the seat, they said.
Serchhip is a Congress bastion as former chief minister and Mizoram Congress president Lal Thanhawla won the seat at least 7 times since 1984.
The Mizoram Congress president was defeated by MNF nominee K. Thangzuala in 1998 and again lost to Lalduhoma in the 2018 Assembly polls.