The Election Commission Thursday appointed IAS officer Ashish Kundra as poll-bound Mizoram's new chief electoral officer, replacing S B Shashank in accordance with the demand of some civil society groups.
The groups were asking for Shashank's ouster over a row on allowing Bru voters lodged in Tripura relief camps to exercise their franchise from there. "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 EC said.
The poll panel had earlier asked the Mizoram government for a panel of names to replace Shashank. Mizoram goes to polls on November 28. The agitation against Shashank was launched a fortnight back with the NGO Coordination Committee, the apex body of civil societies and students' organisations in the north-eastern state, demanding that the officer be replaced as chief electoral officer and transferred outside the state. It also demanded that 11,232 Bru voters in six Tripura relief camps be allowed to exercise their franchise at their respective polling stations in Mizoram and not in Tripura as committed by the poll panel in 2014.
The committee had called for Shashank's exit from the state shortly after the Election Commission (EC) removed the state's principal secretary (Home) Lalnunmawia Chuaungo. Shawshank had reportedly sought the deployment of additional Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) in the state. This did not go down well with the committee. Earlier this month, Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue. "... as people have lost faith in him (Shashank), the only solution for the smooth conduct of the Assembly elections 2018 would be removal of CEO S B Shashank from office forthwith," he said. The EC sent a deputy election commissioner to Aizawl to talk with the agitators.
Thousands of people from the Bru community fled Mizoram in 1997 following ethnic clashes. They have since been living in six relief camps in Tripura. Civil society organisations have opposed the Election Commission's decision to conduct electoral revision of Bru voters in Tripura relief camps in the past too. They urged the EC to disenfranchise all Bru voters who chose to stay back in Tripura and did not return to Mizoram.