Guwahati: November 22: Even as the tiny northeastern state of Mizoram is going for the next Assembly election on November 28 next, as expected the Church-backed NGOs in the Christian-majority frontier state are geared up to ensure free and fair polls by playing the role of the watch dog on the campaign trail.
Unlike other Northeastern hills watchdog electioneering in Mizoram (with high literacy rate of 91.58 per cent) is not all about feasting, merry-making and partying, but more about serious talking and interaction among poll candidates and voters from all walks of life and age groups.
The practice makes is much easier of the Election Commission of India to keep a close watch on poll code violation instances, if any, in Mizoram.
During the last two rounds of Assembly election in the hill state in 2008 and 2013, the Church and NGOs had put into practice a standard mode of campaigning for all poll candidates cutting across all the political parties. Accordingly, candidates from a particular constituency were required to share a common platform while campaigning in various areas of the constituency and explain why they should be elected by the voters.
Usually, such poll meetings were held in the local community hall under the watchful eyes of Church-backed NGOs and voters used to get a chance to interact, quiz the poll candidates from a close quarter. Such occasions provided the right opportunity to the smartest candidate to impress the voters. At the same time smart voters can try corner their prospective representative that makes the campaigning an interesting exercise. No scope was provided to poll candidates to entertain voters in anyway.
However, this election the Church has reportedly adopted a bit lenient approach in response to request from all the political parties which want to reach out more to voters.
This time public meetings and door-to-door canvassing are being allowed to be organised in villages under the close supervision of Mizoram People's Forum (MPF), the Church-backed local election watchdog.
The MPF has relaxed the guideline and skipped the common platform practice this time after elaborate consultation with political parties with a rider that local MPF leaders will be assigned to keep a close watch on door-to-door canvassing and small public meetings to be conducted by the poll candidates. This way the MPF wants to ensure that money power doesn’t come into play in the campaign trail.
Because of such practice, the close-knit and by and large homogenous society in the frontier state of Mizoram stands out among all the states in the country in respect of holding clean elections. The prevailing peace in the hill state is expected to add more smoothness to the poll process.
In the meantime, electioneering is set to gain its momentum fast in Mizoram. Total 209 candidates are in the fray where the main contest is expected between the ruling Congress and the regional Mizo National Front (MNF). The BJP is striving hard to make its presence felt in the Christian state with its plan for a high-voltage campaign, already the party president Amit Shah has visited the poll-bound state besides another senior party leader Rajnath Singh.
Shah while addressing three election rallies at Lawngtlai, Champhai and Vairengte to woo voters in support of 39 BJP candidates, accused the ruling Congress of misusing the central funds and alleged that no development took place in the past decade.
The BJP leader announced that all the highways in Mizoram would be reconstructed, and three engineering colleges, two medical colleges and three Nursing colleges would be set up if the party came to power.
On the other hand Congress president Rahul Gandhi while addressing voters in Champai on Tuesday alleged that BJP was trying to piggy ride Mizo National Front (MNF) to make entry into Mizoram and if possible to Mizoram Assembly.
Promising that Congress will protect the history, idea, culture of Mizoram, the Congress president alleged the MNF of destroying the culture of Mizoram by allowing the BJP to make inroad into the state. He alleged that both the MNF and the BJP had covert understanding though both the parties were contesting the Assembly election separately. The MNF was a constituent of the BJP-floated platform on non-Congress parties, North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA).
The NEDA is a brainchild of Amit Shah and was formed immediately after the BJP’s astounding victory in Assam Assembly election held in May,2016. The basic political objective of NEDA is to create a common political platform by the BJP with non-Congress regional parties in the Northeast against Congress. The NEDA has paid rich dividends for the BJP in Manipur, Meghalaya and Nagaland where the BJP is either heading or a part of the ruling coalition.
The Congress and the MNF have fielded candidates in all the 40 Assembly constituencies in Mizoram while the BJP has contested in 39 seats. As a high-voltage campaign is on the card, the poll watch dog MPF has a tough task ahead to keep this election clean and free of money power.