Home Agency News Since 2006, Church-backed group upholds Mizoram’s tradition of ‘model polls’

Since 2006, Church-backed group upholds Mizoram’s tradition of ‘model polls’

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Since 2006, Church-backed group upholds Mizoram’s tradition of ‘model polls’
Aizawl:  Unlike the other parts of India, the elections in Christian dominated Mizoram are always subdued affairs, incident free with society driven zero tolerance against any electoral unethical tricks and malpractices.

The Mizoram People’s Forum (MPF), an independent church-led voluntary poll watchdog and its key constituent Young Mizo Association (YMA) have been playing a significant role since 2006 to ensure that elections in Mizoram are free and transparent without any undue influence of money power and misconduct.

Backed by the Presbyterian Church, the main Christian denomination in the mountainous state, the MPF gets support from all political parties and stakeholders as the influential and powerful socio-religious body YMA extended all out support to it.

Founded in June 1935, the YMA, which has around five lakh members across the state and branches in several other northeastern states, is not only the oldest but the single most influential socio-religious body of Mizo society that has been playing a vital role in almost every aspect of the society for the past many decades.

Though MPF and YMA are part of the church, they work independently with separate styles.

The MPF keeps a close watch over poll expenses and the electoral conduct of the political parties and their candidates.

Election officials said that the role of the MPF is very significant and helpful as it keeps a very strict vigil on the poll expenses and various actions and activities of the political parties and candidates.

MPF general secretary Rev. Lalramliana Pachuau said that much before the election, his voluntary organisation signed an agreement with the five major political parties in the state — the Mizo National Front (MNF), Congress, Zoram People’s Movement, Bharatiya Janata Party and the Mizoram People’s Conference (MPC) — to check any inducement in cash or kind to the voters.

“We have always urged the political parties to maintain transparency, fairness and democratic functioning during electioneering. All the political parties during the elections are maintaining this democratic spirit and adhere to the conditions of the agreement signed with them,” Pachuau told IANS.

Like the previous elections, this time too, we have set up common platforms (stages) in the capital Aizawl and most of the assembly constituencies and the candidates of all political parties are using these platforms to woo their voters and highlighting their electoral aims, objectives and future plans before the electorates, he said.

Pachuau, also a church leader, said “As the MPF is a voluntary organisation with no legal powers we can’t take any action and steps against any political party or candidate. However, all political parties and candidates are maintaining this democratic spirit. There is no major complaint against any party, candidate or individual.”

He said that the Election Commission of India (ECI) and other authorities are also highly appreciative of their efforts.

As per the MPF guidelines during election time no candidate is allowed to host a community feast as they can be expensive.

A limited number of pre-decided size banners, flags and posters are allowed per candidate, distribution of cash and commodities like rice, footballs and jerseys, mobile handsets, any other electronic gadget and gifts are strictly prohibited.

A candidate can neither borrow money from anyone nor goods from any shop during the election campaign.

“All these are incorporated in the agreement (signed with the political parties) in order to cut the expenses of the candidates and also not to unnecessarily restrict the candidates during their campaign, and to sensitize the people. We also try to check inducements, which are a big issue in India during elections,” said Pachuau.

Election officials said that unlike in other states in India, due to the efforts of the MPF there was no case of violation of the model code of conduct or any undemocratic or illegal action in Mizoram.

Since 2019, Mizoram has been a dry state after the incumbent MNF government implemented its pre-poll promise and stopped the controlled sale of liquor introduced by the previous Congress government in January 2015.

However, in August last year, the government allowed locally grown grapes to be processed and sold in the market freely following outrage over seizure of large quantities of locally processed wine.

Prohibition of other liquors continues except under some government stipulated strict conditions.

According to the 2011 census, around 87 per cent of Mizoram’s population is Christian.

Elections to the 40-member Mizoram Assembly would be held on November 7, and the results will be declared on December 3.

Mizoram’s 8,51,895 eligible voters will decide the electoral fate of 174 candidates, including 16 women.

The ruling MNF, the main opposition ZPM and the Congress have fielded candidates in 40 seats each while the Aam Aadmi Party in four seats and 27 independent candidates are also in the fray.

The BJP has fielded candidates on 23 seats with a special focus on linguistic minority inhabited areas, especially where the Reang and Chakma tribal community people are in reasonable numbers in the voters’ list.

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