Amid growing demand for the ouster of Mizoram Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) S B Shashank, Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla Monday wrote to Prime Minister
Narendra Modi, seeking immediate removal of the CEO as “people have lost faith in him”.
Shashank Monday said he had “no intention to hurt the sentiments” of the state’s civil societies and apologised for rankling them in any way.
The NGO Coordination Committee, an umbrella body of major civil societies and student organisations, had sought Shashank’s exit from the state, shortly after the Election Commission (EC) removed the state’s principal secretary (Home) Lalnunmawia Chuaungo.
A section of the media said Shashank had complained to the EC that Chuaungo was interfering in the poll process.
“As people have lost faith in him, the only solution for the smooth conduct of Assembly elections 2018 now would be removal of CEO S B Shashank from office forthwith,” the chief minister wrote in his letter to the prime minister. A copy of the letter is available with PTI.
Elections to the 40-member Mizoram Assembly are scheduled for November 28.
Coordination Committee, which had on Friday demanded that Shashank leave Mizoram by dusk Monday, has decided to picket before the CEO’s office from Tuesday and not allow him to attend office.
The decision was made after the NGO officials attended a meeting convened by the state government and chaired by Chief Secretary Arvind Ray.
Additional security personnel have been deployed at the office and residence of Shashank in view of the threats.
Earlier on Monday, the CEO told a press meet here that he was just fulfilling his responsibilities in accordance with the instructions of the EC.
“As the state chief electoral officer, it is my responsibility that I fulfil the mandate of the EC. I can only hope that the civil societies will understand my position. I am sorry if I have hurt anybody,” he said.
The EC in its Friday’s order had said, “... the Election Commission is satisfied that the continuance of Mr. Lalnunmawia Chuaungo as Principal Secretary (Home), in State Government of Mizoram will have adverse impact on conduct of smooth, free and fair election process in Mizoram”.
The order mentioned six incidents, mainly related to the arrangements to enable Bru refugees staying in camps in Tripura, take part in the voting process. Thousands of Bru community people had fled Mizoram in the late 1990s following ethnic clash Chuaungo, a native of the state and Gujarat-cadre IAS officer, has been relieved of his responsibilities.
On his fallout with Chuaungo, the CEO said he had issued a statement to the District Election Officers (DEO) and Electoral Registration Officers (ERO) on September 11 to notify that “identification slips could be used as valid documents by eligible Bru migrants in Tripura”.
Chuaungo, however, issued another order on September 13, asking the Bru refugees to not use the identification slips, except for the purpose of repatriation, he said.
Shashank alleged that Chuaungo and Chief Secretary Arvind Ray did not issue any clarification on the September 13 order, despite the EC’s instructions.
The EC has instructed Chuaungo to report before the Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi.
Accusing the CEO of working against the spirit of “free and fair” polls, the NGO Coordination Committee had urged the poll body to replace him.
Earlier, too, the civil society organisations had opposed the EC’s decision to conduct electoral revision of Bru voters in Tripura’s relief camps.
They also urged the EC to disenfranchise all Bru voters who chose to stay back in Tripura and did not return to Mizoram.
The NGO appealed truck owners to not allow the use of their vehicles to transport central paramilitary forces from outside to Mizoram. It also asked the Federation of Mizoram Government Employees and Workers to support the agitation and cease work from Tuesday.