Sinlung /
22 October 2013

Mizoram Poll Watchdog Sets Tough Poll Rules

Aizawl, Oct 22 : Mizoram's powerful election watchdog, the Mizoram People Forum, has prohibited door-to-door campaigning within 10 days of poll day, and forbidden parties from setting up campaign offices or organising public rallies without its consent or participation.

Mizoram People Forum (MPF) is a conglomeration of several churches and the state's largest voluntary organisations. All registered political parties have signed a covenant with the MPF ahead of polls.

MPF leaders have also said that even the star campaigners of national parties — a reference to Congress leaders Sonia and Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi — would, as per the covenant, have to address public meetings only with the forum's consent.

The forum has also criticised as "suppression of democracy" the actions that groups like the Hmar People's Conference (Democratic) took before the rural bypolls in July, and called on all groups to not repeat these tactics.

The state Election Commission had then postponed the filing of nominations by two days after the Hmar Welfare Committee — a group whose leaders include official spokespersons of the HPC(D) — asked candidates from political parties to stay away and allow only Independents to file nominations in order to "show solidarity" with the demand for an autonomous district council for the region.

The MPF began to actively pursue the role of an election watchdog in the last Assembly elections of 2008, when parties across the board abided by the rules it set. The forum has no powers to take action against candidates and parties who refuse to fall in line, but it has in the past made public announcements about the alleged use of money-power by some candidates.

The Election Commission has been supportive of the Mizoram People Forum. Asked by reporters about the contradiction inherent in a church-sponsored body playing a role in a secular election, Mizoram Chief Electoral Officer Ashwani Kumar said at a recent press conference that the Election Commission's and MPF's aims were similar, i.e., to ensure free and fair elections.


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