Mizoram bypoll, counting to be held on 'holy days'; oppn parties seek deferment

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Aizawl, Mar 18 (PTI) Opposition parties of Mizoram - the Zoram People's Movement (ZPM) and the BJP - on Thursday requested the Election Commission of India (ECI) to defer the Serchhip assembly seat bypoll and counting of votes, saying that both fell on days important for Christians.

The by-election to the Serchhip constituency in the Christian-majority state is scheduled to be held on April 17, a Saturday, and votes will be counted on May 2 which is a Sunday.

The ZPM wrote to the ECI saying that Saturday is a sanctified day for certain Christian denominations in Mizoram especially Seventh Day Adventist Church which follows the Sabbath, a day of religious observance and abstinence from work.

Sunday is also a holy day for Christians, the party said.

'It is, therefore, requested that these two days such as polling day and counting day may be postponed on other suitable dates for favour of Christians in India to maintain secularism,' the letter read.

The BJP's state unit also urged the poll panel to defer the days of the by-poll and counting as they fell on Saturday and Sunday respectively and the days are sacred for Christians.

The party said in a statement that voter turnout could also be less if polling is held on Saturday as it is a sacred day for some churches in Mizoram.

'We want both dates for the bypoll and counting for Serchhip seat to be deferred to suitable dates,' the statement said.

The bypoll to the Serchhip seat was necessitated by the disqualification of incumbent MLA Lalduhoma under the anti-defection law. He was elected as an Independent candidate but later defected to the ZPM.

Bypolls to two Lok Sabha seats - one each in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh - and 14 assembly constituencies across 11 states, including Serchhip, will be held on April 17. The fifth phase of the West Bengal assembly election will also take place on the same day.

Votes will be counted on May 2, the same day when results for elections in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam, West Bengal and Puducherry are expected to be out. PTI COR NN NN