Despite appeals to reschedule the bypoll to Serchhip assembly constituency in Mizoram due to religious obligation, the Election Commission on Monday made it clear that it would go ahead with its earlier schedule slated for April 17.
In letters separately written to chief minister Zoramthanga, Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) and Mizo Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, the poll panel said that the petitions seeking deferment of polling date and counting date for Serchhip bypoll could not be entertained as they were fixed after taking into account several factors.
It said that the matter was examined and considered by the Commission.
“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,” reads the letters signed by the Election Commission secretary Madhusudan Gupta.
“The poll shall take place on 17 April, 2021 and counting on 2 May, 2021,” it added.
Earlier in March, chief minister Zoramthanga, Mizoram main’s opposition party ZPM and Mizo Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists had written to the Election Commission seeking deferment for dates of polling (April 17) and counting (May 2) for upcoming Serchhip bypoll as both fall on Saturday and Sunday, which are sanctified days for the Christians.
For members of Seventh – day Adventist churches, Saturday is Sabbath, which is a day of religious observance and abstinence from work.
Besides, the BJP and Serchhip Thalai Pawl (Serchhip Youth Club) had also sought deferment of the bypoll.
In his letter to the Election Commission, Zoramthanga had said that there are a significant number of people belonging to the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Mizoram, including Serchhip assembly constituency and holding the by-election on April 17 mean that voters belonging to such churches do not cast their votes.
He had urged the poll panel to defer the polling day to April 16 (Friday) one day ahead of the schedule (April 17) as the day falls on Saturday, which is Sabbath and also to push back the counting day scheduled for May 2, by a day or two as the actual day falls on Sunday.
Mizo Conference of Seventh Day Adventist in its letter also said that observers of Sabbath refrain from secular activities on the Sabbath day (Saturday) and as such holding the bypoll on Saturday means many would not cast their votes as there are a good number of voters belonging to Seventh Day Adventist Church in Serchhip constituency.
Meanwhile, Mizo Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists executive secretary Lalnilawma Colney said that Seventh-Day Adventist church members will be able to cast their votes only after sunset on polling day.
“We have instructed our members not to cast their votes during sunrise (day time). However, there will be no any agitation to oppose the Election Commission’s final decision. Our members will be able to exercise their franchise only after sunset,” he said.
According to an election official, there are about 248 voters belonging to Seventh-Day Adventist church in Serchhip constituency, which is 1.28 per cent of the total 19,295 electorates.
Polling will be held on April 17 between 7 am to 6 pm, he said.
Any voters, who able to turn up at the premises of polling booths within the deadline, will be allowed to cast their votes, he added.
At least six candidates are in the fray for the coming bypoll, which according to political analysts, will see a triangular fight among the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF), ZPM and Congress.
The bypoll to Serchhip seat was necessitated by the disqualification of incumbent MLA Lalduhoma under anti-defection law in November last year.