Church-backed watchdog MPF hogs limelight in Mizoram polls

Church-backed watchdog MPF hogs limelight in Mizoram polls

Aizawl, Nov 7 (PTI) The powerful church-sponsored election watchdog, Mizoram People's Forum (MPF), stole the limelight as it ensured adherence to all election-related activities of both the voters and political parties during the state polls which ended peacefully on Tuesday.

Although the assembly polls were officially conducted by the Election Commission of India (ECI), the MPF was the real force on the ground that ensured the implementation of all poll norms.

The MPF was formed by the powerful Presbyterian Church Mizo Synod with the help of other major churches and civil societies on June 21, 2006 as a poll watchdog to strive for electoral reforms.

'Before every election, we sign an MoU with all political parties with the dos and don'ts. This time, we signed the agreement in March and all parties took oath to adhere to all the rules,' MPF general secretary Rev Lalramliana Pachuau told PTI.

In the MoU, the MPF incorporated several important clauses related to the model code of conduct by the ECI to cut campaigning costs and sensitise voters and candidates, he added.

'There were only a handful of violations of the agreement during the campaign phase and those were resolved immediately,' Pachuau said.

On polling, he said it passed off peacefully without report of a single untoward incident from anywhere in the state.

'Our volunteers were present in every booth helping voters. They sorted out enrolment numbers of voters and handed over the slips to them,' Pachuau said.

The MPF volunteers took extra care of senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PwD) who came to vote during the day, he added.

At most of the polling stations across the state, benches were provided by the MPF so that people could sit while queuing for casting their votes.

Pachuau said 5-10 MPF volunteers were present in every polling booth across the state, while some more were deployed in and around the stations to check nothing wrong was taking place.

'Before MPF came into picture almost two decades ago, political party workers used to sit in front of the polling stations to help voters find their names in the voters' list. But after the MPF started functioning, they have been doing it without any partisan approach,' he added.

Lauding their role, Mizoram chief electoral officer Madhup Vyas said MPF has done 'steller work' in having peaceful and ethical campaigning during the last one month.

'I am really happy to have the participation of a social organisation like MPF. The ECI has also recognised their contribution in earlier elections. The involvement of social groups is essential in democracy,' he told PTI.

During the campaign period, the local forums of the MPF made public announcements across localities appealing to candidates and campaigners not to use money power to woo voters, besides asking politicians not to indulge in mud-slinging.

All joint public meetings by candidates or political party leaders in the constituencies were chaired by MPF leaders, while community feasts by candidates or political parties during electioneering were publicly condemned.

'The MPF even specifies the sizes of publicity materials. Nobody can afford to violate that. The MPF agreement has in fact helped Mizoram achieve a complete free, fair and peaceful elections over the years,' a member of a political party said.

Voting in all the 1,276 polling stations across Mizoram started at 7am and ended at 4 pm.

Of 8,52,088 voters in the state, 4,39,026 are women and 4,13,062 men. There were 50,751 first-time voters too. PTI TR TR MNB

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