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Mizoram set for assembly polls

IANS  Aizawl, November 24, 2013
First Published: 14:30 IST(24/11/2013) | Last Updated: 16:33 IST(7/12/2013)

The northeastern state of Mizoram elects its new assembly Monday, after a period of campaigns that were organised and peaceful. The ruling Congress will be challenged by the Mizo National Front (MNF)-led three-party alliance.

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Counting of votes will be taken up Dec 9.

Though there is no major threat from separatist outfits and Mizoram remained peaceful during the month-long electioneering, around 5,000 para-military, state and other security personnel have been deployed to ensure free and fair polls in the state which borders Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Christian-and tribal-dominated Mizoram witnessed peaceful campaigning under a close watch of the powerful Church-controlled Mizoram People's Forum (MPF), a non-government election watchdog.

Like in previous elections, the MPF had set some dos and don'ts for political parties.

Mizoram Police chief Amulya Patnaik said that during the campaigning, not a single untoward incident was reported from anywhere in the state.

"The violence-free campaign might be due to the strict observance and guidelines of the MPF," he said.

Unlike in other parts of the country, the campaign mostly centered on joint platforms organised by the MPF, where all candidates of a particular assembly segment debated poll issues, development work and other matters.

These poll debates, at a fixed place, were moderated by an MPF member.

The people assembled at these debate centers and straightway asked questions to the candidates from various political parties and independents.

"Mizo society doesn't support any kind of violence and misconduct. The MPF platform at state, district and local levels kept a close observance over the situations, any kind of unlawful activity and any attempt to instigate violence," MPF president the Rev. Lalramlian Pachuau told reporters.

Of the state's population of 10.91 lakh, around 6.91 lakh, of them  3.5 lakh women, are eligible to vote and decide the fate of the 142 candidates in the fray.

Of the 40 seats, 39 are reserved for tribals. One seat is for general category.

"All preparations are almost complete for the polls. Polling officials accompanied by security forces have reached their polling stations," Mizoram Chief Electoral officer Ashwini Kumar told reporters Sunday.

Among the 142 aspirants, six are women and hardly any new faces.

The main political parties in the poll arena are the ruling Congress, led by Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, and the three-party opposition Mizoram Democratic Alliance (MDA), dominated by the MNF, which is headed by former chief minister Zoramthanga.

The other two constituents of the MDA are Mizoram People's Conference (MPC) and Maraland Democratic Front.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, Zoram Nationalist Party and the Nationalist Congress Party are also separately contesting the state elections, fielding candidates in some cosntituencies.

The Congress-led Mizoram government's flagship programme New Land Use Policy (NLUP) and the proposed Special Economic Development Programme of the MDA figured prominently during their campaigns.

The NLUP was a special farming-cum-poverty alleviation project, launched in 2010 to support 125,000 "Jhumia" (shifting cultivator) families in four phases and the centre provided Rs.2,873 crore for it.

The scheme aimed to benefit the farmers to solve food scarcity by moving away from "jhum cultivation" (slash and burn method of cultivation) to stable farming.

The opposition parties also brought up the issue of Mizo nationalism as one of its main planks for the first time in this polls.

Unemployment and backwardness prevailing in the state were also major concerns raised by political parties.

The MDA has been trying to woo the electorates on the issue of reported corruption in the state government and its alleged misrule.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi campaigned for the ruling party in the state.

During the last assembly elections in December 2008, the Congress won 32 seats, the MNF three and the MDF one. The MPC and ZNP got two seats each.

The MNF, which ruled the state for 10 years till 2008, is the principal opposition party.

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