Several political parties in Mizoram have accused former Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) S B Shashank of being anti-Mizo and "puncturing" the state's enviable record of holding peaceful polls for decades. This the first time political parties have openly criticised the ex-CEO, who was at the centre of a row over allegedly trying to facilitate Bru voters in Tripura relief camps to vote in the November 28 Mizoram Assembly elections from that state.
The Election Commission of India (ECI) Saturday announced its decision to replace Shashank following massive protests by civil society groups here, demanding his ouster over his alleged pro-Bru stance.
The All NGO (Coordination Committee), an umbrella body of major civil society groups and students' bodies, has been demanding that the Bru people, who fled Mizoram in 1997 following ethnic clashes and are residing in relief camps in Tripura, be allowed to cast their votes only in Mizoram.
Several major political parties in Mizoram have suggested that the 11,232 Bru voters in Tripura relief camps should return to their villages and cast their votes after enrolling themselves here.
"It was a very foolish thing on Shashank's part. It could have been avoided. He behaved like a fool. That is why the ECI has recalled him, and people are protesting against him," former chief minister Zoramthanga told PTI in an interview. Let the "original" Bru people return to Mizoram and enrol themselves in the voters' list here, he said.
Shashank had also sought deployment of 40 companies of central armed police forces in the state. The move was opposed by the powerful NGO Coordination Committee and many political parties. "Such a heavy deployment is not required here. In Mizoram, we do not need it. Normally, there are two-three policemen (at polling booths)," said Zoramthanga, the president of the main opposition party -- the Mizo National Front (MNF).
Asked if Shashank acted in favour of the BJP as the Brus are considered sympathetic to the saffron party, he said that he is "unaware" of the former CEO's intention. The ruling Congress accused Shashank of being anti-Mizo and vitiating the peaceful atmosphere "just ahead of polls to the 40-member Mizoram Assembly". "Shashank is not the person who loves Mizoram. He does not work for Mizoram or for the interest of its people. That is why all NGOs, civil society and common people went against him for his action in the Chuaungo episode," a Congress spokesperson said.The ECI had earlier removed Mizoram's Principal Secretary (Home) Lalnunmawia Chuaungo after Shashank complained to it that he was interfering in the poll process. "We want the Brus to cast their votes in Mizoram by enrolling here. That's our stand," the Congress spokesperson said. Mizoram is the most peaceful state in India and the people here are proud of it, he said. "The electoral process has always been very peaceful here. There was no need to deploy 40 companies of central forces. He disturbed the poll process and turned it into an unpleasant affair," the Congress leader alleged. The People's Representation for Identity and Status of Mizoram (PRISM), a new entrant in the political arena of Mizoram, also favoured the Brus voting in Mizoram only. "So many Mizos are there in Delhi, Guwahati and other places. They cannot vote from there. They come here to vote. Similarly, the Brus should also come and vote in Mizoram. "If the Brus vote in Tripura, then the EC should set up booths in Delhi, Guwahati, Kolkata and other places as well," Prism President Vanlalruata told PTI.