According to reports, the Election Commission on Friday directed the Mizoram government to remove a principal secretary-level officer, Lalnunmawia Chuaungo, on the charges of meddling with the election process.
Chuaungo, a 1987-batch Gujarat-cadre IAS officer, has been serving in Mizoram on an inter-cadre deputation from Gujarat, approved by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The order came after reports appeared in a section of the media that state Chief Electoral Officer SB Shashank had complained to the EC that Chuaungo was interfering with the election process. The EC also directed that he should be relieved of his current responsibilities with immediate effect and not be assigned any work related to the state until the elections are over.
“The Election Commission is satisfied that the continuance of Mr Lalnunmawia Chuaungo as Principal Secretary (Home), in State Government of Mizoram will have the adverse impact on the conduct of smooth, free and fair election process in Mizoram,” the EC order said.
CEO Shashank had highlighted the “active role” played by Chuaungo, heading the Home and Finance departments, in abetting the government’s intrusion in electoral roll revision and deployment of central armed police forces. He had warned that Chuaungo’s direct or indirect interference is likely to increase as elections reach closer.
Shashank had alleged insensitivity on part of the state government regarding voting rights of Bru refugees living in Tripura. He cited interference of the Department of Home Affairs in the electoral revision process by asking the District Election Officers not to consider the identification slips for any purpose other than repatriation of refugees. According to him, the Mizoram government did not seem keen to have any new Bru voters enrolled.
Shortly after the removal of Chuaungo, an umbrella organisation of major civil societies and student bodies of the state demanded the removal of Mizoram Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) S B Shashank, claiming that he has lost the trust of the people. The NGO Coordination Committee asked S B Shashank to leave the state by Monday evening.
It is notable here that thousands of Bru community members have been living in Tripura in refugee camps since 1997. The election commission of India had arranged for the Bru to vote in their camps in 2013 and 2014 to which the Congress government in the state had opposed. This time too, the state Congress government has stated that they will not allow the Bru to vote. The election commission has been considering opening poll booths in a border town close to the refugee camps in Tripura where the Bru people can vote.
Assembly elections will be held on the 40 seats of Mizoram on November 28 and the results will be out on December 11.