Aizawl, Apr 12 (PTI) The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Monday said that voting will be held for Serchhip assembly bypoll in Mizoram according to plans on April 17, as it could not entertain the request of rescheduling the dates of polling and counting on account of religious obligation.
The ECI informed those who wanted a change in dates that votes will be counted on May 2, following the schedule announced on March 16.
In letters to Chief Minister Zoramthanga, opposition party Zoram People's Movement (ZPM) and the Seventh-Day Adventist church, the poll panel said that the petitions seeking deferment of dates of polling and counting for the bypoll could not be entertained as they were fixed after taking into account several factors.
Zoramthanga, the church and the ZPM had last month separately urged the ECI to reschedule the dates of both the events as they fell on days important for Christians.
The poll panel had announced that the by-election to the Serchhip constituency in the Christian-majority state will be held on April 17, a Saturday, and counting of votes will take place on May 2 which is a Sunday.
Saturday is a sanctified day for certain Christian denominations in Mizoram especially the 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 ECI letters said that it has considered the matter.
'However, since these dates (polling and counting) were fixed after taking into account several factors, I am directed to inform that the requests to change the dates could not be accommodated,' read the letters signed by ECI secretary Madhusudan Gupta, a copy of which was accessed by PTI.
'The poll shall take place on 17 April, 2021 and counting on 2 May, 2021,' it added.
The chief minister had informed the ECI that there are a significant number of people belonging to the Seventh Day Adventist church in Mizoram, including the Serchhip assembly constituency, and holding the bypoll on a Saturday would mean that its members will not be able to cast their votes.
The poll panel has recently communicated to the states chief electoral officer seeking information on the number of voters belonging to that denomination in the Serchhip constituency and the entire state, and the data sought has been sent, an official said.
The number of voters belonging to the particular church in Serchhip assembly constituency is estimated to be about 248, which is 1.26 per cent of the total voters in that seat. Their number in the entire state is 16,845, which is around 1.50 per cent of the voters of Mizoram, he said.
Executive Secretary of the Mizo Conference of the Seventh-Day Adventist church, Lalnilawma Colney, told PTI that its members will be able to cast their votes only after sunset.
'We are not going to oppose the Election Commission's final decision,' Colney said.
Polling will be held on April 17 between 7 am to 6 pm, and any voter, who will turn up at the polling booth within that period will be allowed to cast vote, an official said.
Six candidates are in the fray for the bypoll, including those of the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF), ZPM and the Congress.
The bypoll to the Serchhip seat was necessitated after the disqualification of incumbent MLA Lalduhoma in November 2020 under the anti-defection law. PTI COR NN NN