Church imposes own strict election code on Mizoram

November 27th, 2008 - 11:37 am ICT by IANS  

Aizawl, Nov 27 (IANS) With few posters and banners, no loudspeakers and a general absence of political hubbub, it is hard to say that elections in Mizoram, the mountainous state bordering Myanmar and Bangladesh, are less than a week away.This has less to do with the guidelines of the Election Commission of India than with the state’s own strict electoral code of conduct issued by the church. Television and mobile phones are the only campaign tools allowed ahead of the elections to the 40-member state assembly.

In sharp contrast to the other five poll-bound states in the country, Mizoram, which goes to the polls Dec 2, is free from the hurly-burly of electioneering.

“Thanks to the diktat of the Presbyterian Church, campaigning here is in a low key. Other Indian states could take a lead from Mizoram,” said Rev H. Vanlalauva, president of the Mizoram People’s Forum (MPF).

The church-sponsored MPF, an umbrella of NGOs, has issued a ‘code of conduct’ for parties and candidates to follow during the elections. All the parties are strictly abiding by the guidelines.

Vanlalauva said: “This is possible in Mizoram as the church has an overwhelming impact and domination on Mizo society.”

In view of the MPF’s strict poll guidelines, the Election Commission’s statutory model code of conduct for the parties and candidates has become irrelevant.

“We did not get a single complaint of violation of the model code since electioneering began last month,” said Lalhmingthanga, joint chief electoral officer.

Unlike most other Indian states, Mizoram also stands out for the fact that women voters here outnumber their male counterparts. There are 308,884 female voters as against 302,240 men, in an electorate of 611,124.

But the state joins others in fielding fewer women candidates in the polls. Only nine women candidates found nominations in a total of 205 contestants.

There are no women legislators in the present assembly either, since all the seven who contested the 2003 elections had lost.

Since Mizoram became a Union Territory in 1972 and a full- fledged state in 1986, there have been only three women legislators - Thanmawii (1978), K. Thansiami (1979) and Lalhlimpui (1987).

Lalhlimpui was the only woman minister in 1987. The ruling Mizo National Front (MNF) has again nominated Lalhlimpui in the Hrangturzo constituency while the main opposition Congress has fielded its women wing supremo Zothankimi in Aizawl West.

The United Democratic Alliance (UDA), a conglomeration of various regional parties, has fielded H. Lalhmingthangi in the Champhai South constituency against MNF chief and Chief Minister Zoramthanga.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) have fielded two women candidates each while two other smaller parties too have nominated two women candidates.

” Mizo society in pre-modern times was strictly based as a patriarchal society,” said Sekhar Paul, a renowned sociologist. The women were largely relegated to the home and denied a public role in social and religious life, he added.

Another important feature in the Mizoram polls is that more than 80 percent of the 205 candidates are relatively young, aged between 30 and 45 years.

However, among the three chief ministerial candidates, UDA’s 86-year-old Brig T. Sailo is the oldest candidate.

MNF supremo Zoramthanga is 64 and the Congress’ Lal Thanhawla is 68.

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