Aizawl: The Election Commission of India is yet to decide on whether or not to defer polling and counting dates for the bypoll to Serchhip assembly seat in Mizoram, which is due on April 17, an election official said on Monday.

Earlier, Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga, political parties and Seventh Day Adventist church urged the poll panel to defer polling and counting dates as both the actual days fell on Saturday and Sunday, which are sacred and important to the Christians.

Seventh Day Adventist church had said that many voters belonging to the particular church would not be able to exercise their franchise because Saturday is Sabbath (similar to Sunday) for them.

Mizoram joint chief electoral officer David Liansanglura Pachuau said that the poll panel has recently approached state Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) asking him to give information on the number of voters belonging exclusively to Seventh Day Adventist church in Serchhip constituency and in the entire state.

“The ECI is yet to give response to the appeal to defer polling and counting dates,” he said.

According to Pachuau, the number of voters belonging to Seventh Day Adventist church members in Serchhip assembly constituency is estimated to be about 248, which is 1.26 per cent of the total voters in this particular constituency.

The number of voters of Seventh Day Adventist church in the state is estimated to be about 16,845 (1.50%).

He said that there are 19,295 electorates, including 10,193 female voters in Serchhip constituency.

Pachuau also said that the bypoll preparedness is more or less completed.

He said that at least 1 company of Central Armed Forces have been deployed for the bypoll and they will be assisted by state police.

Serchhip deputy commissioner and Returning Officer (RO) Kumar Abishek said that at least 148 officials have been deployed as polling parties.

According to Pachuau, at least six candidates are in the fray for the bypoll.

Polling will be held in 29 polling stations where EVM will be used, he said.

The ruling Mizo National Front (MNF) has fielded its vice president and former Lok Sabha member Vanlalzawma while main opposition Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) fielded former Lok Sabha member and incumbent MLA Lalduhoma, who disqualification under the anti-defection law in November last year necessitated the bypoll.

Also read: COVID-19: Mizoram reports highest single-day spike in two months

Congress has fielded former student leader and party general secretary P.C. Laltlansanga, BJP fielded former mining engineer Lalhriatrenga Chhangte and People’s Conference fielded its vice president Vanlalruata.

One independent candidate Ramhlun-Edena is also up for the contest.

Political analysts said that the upcoming bypoll is expected to see a neck-to-neck fight among the MNF, ZPM and Congress.

It will be a litmus test for Lalduhoma as he will face two giant rivals to retain the seat, they said.

Serchhip is a Congress bastion as former chief minister and state Congress president Lal Thanhawla had won the seat for at least 7 times since 1984.

The Congress president was defeated by MNF nominee K. Thangzuala in 1998 and again lost to Lalduhoma in 2018 assembly polls.

Counting of votes will be held on May 2.

Also read: Mizoram MP meets Pakistan Hindu refugees in North Delhi

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