Amid opposition, the Bru people, who are lodging at six transit camps in Tripura and are still enrolled in Mizoram electoral roll, are unlikely to exercise their franchise in the upcoming by-poll to Tuirial assembly seat slated to be held on October 30, a leader of the Bru community said on Thursday.
At least 663 Bru electorates, including 333 female voters, are still enrolled in Tuirial assembly constituency and they belong to two polling stations- Hortoki and Zodin, according to election officials.
There are 487 Bru voters in Zodin polling station and 176 others in Hortoki.
Elvis Maska, president in charge of Mizoram Bru Indigenous Democratic Movement (MBIDM), said that the Bru people are unlikely to cast their votes in the upcoming bypoll unless special arrangements are made for them.
MBIDM was among various Bru organisations that signed the Bru agreement in January last year.
Maska said that Bru voters might find it inconvenient to come to their respective polling stations in Mizoram due to financial constraints and also due to remoteness of the place as many voters especially senior citizens will find it difficult to travel to a far distance between their camps in Tripura and polling stations in Mizoram.
“I don’t think that the Bru voters will come and cast their votes in the bypoll unless special polling booths are set up at Kanhmun like in the past elections. For poor people like us it will be difficult to come to our respective polling stations on our own expenses. Many senior voters may not be able to travel a far distance,” Maska, who is now in Tripura relief camp said.
He further said that most voters will be reluctant to come to Mizoram due to security concerns.
The Bru leader alleged that they have heard rumour about Mizo organisations trying to identify Bru voters, who come from Tripura to exercise their franchise in the bypoll.
However, Mizoram NGO coordination Committee, a conglomerate of major civil society organisations headed by Central Young Mizo Association (CYMA), denied the allegation citing the Bru voters are most welcome if they come and cast their votes to their respective polling stations on their own expenses.
According to Maska, they were waiting for the Election Commission to set up special polling booths at Kanhmun village on the Mizoram-Tripura border but such arrangement is unlikely as the Mizo NGOs have strongly opposed it.
He said that they want to exercise their franchise, which he claimed was their constitutional right, and take part in the formation of government if separate polling booths are set up at Kanhmun.
“We want to cast our votes if polling booths are created at Kanhmun. We are waiting for the authority to make such an arrangement. However, special arrangement is out of question now as NGOs are vehemently opposed to it,” he said.
Mizoram Joint Chief Electoral Officer David Liansanglura Pachuau, however, said that they have not received any appeal from the Bru community to set up special polling booths for them till date.
Earlier, state CEO P. Jawahar had said that there was no plan to make special arrangement for the Bru voters till now.
The Bru voters need to come on their own to exercise their franchise in their respective polling stations in Mizoram if separate polling booths are not made, he had said.
Certain organisations like YMA and Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) are strongly opposed to setting up of special polling booth for the Bru voters in Tripura outside their polling stations.
In the past, the Bru voters used to exercise their franchise through postal ballots in relief camps until in 2018 when exclusive polling stations were set up at Kanhmun.
The bypoll to Tuirial seat was necessitated by the death of incumbent MLA Andrew H. Thangliana of Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) in August.
A total of 17,911 electorates, including 9,092 female voters, will exercise their franchise in the upcoming bypoll to decide the fate of 4 candidates from ruling Mizo National Front (MNF), ZPM, Congress and BJP.
There are 27 polling stations in Tuirial constituency.
Counting of votes will be undertaken on November 2.