Less than two weeks before assembly election, Mizoram Chief Electoral Officer changed

Congress government and activists were demanding the removal of existing CEO Shashank

The Election Commission has appointed IAS officer Ashish Kundra as the new Chief Election Officer of Mizoram replacing S B Shashank. “The Election Commission of India in consultation with the Government of Mizoram hereby nominates Ashish Kundra as the chief electoral officer for the state of Mizoram with immediate effect,” a notification issued by the Election Commission stated.

The decision was taken by the Election Commission following protests by the local political groups and NGOs demanding the ouster of S B Shashank from the post of CEO. Shashank had complained to the Election Commission about principal secretary-level officer, Lalnunmawia Chuaungo’s interference with the election process. The Election Commission had thereafter removed Chuaungo. Protesters took to streets following the removal of Chuaungo and picketed in front of Shashank’s office for two days. The agitation was called off after Shashank left for Delhi as he was summoned by the Election Commission.

The whole problem relates to the voting rights of Bru people who had escaped from Mizoram following large-scale violence against them in 1997. These Bru people are currently lodged in refugee camps in neighbouring Tripura. They are still voters in Mizoram. Past efforts by the Election Commission to provide them with facilities to vote were opposed by Mizo organisations and the Congress government.

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For the upcoming election, the election commission had taken up revision of electoral roll of Bru refugees in Tripura, and they were planning to set up poll booths at a border town in Mizoram for them. Chuaungo was allegedly interfering in the electoral roll updating process for the Bru people. Shashank, however, dismissed the reports of Bru refugees being allowed to vote inside their camps in Tripura as a rumour, and said that EC was yet to take a final decision on the matter.

The move is being seen as an attempt to ensure smooth conduct of elections in the State which goes to poll on Nov 28.

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