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Mizoram polls: 55 per cent of Bru voters turn up to exercise franchise

twitter-logoPTI | November 28, 2018 | Updated 19:53 IST

Kanhmun (Mizoram), Nov 28 (PTI) Around 55 per cent of Bru voters in the six relief camps in Tripura came here Wednesday and exercised their franchise at the 15 special polling booths created for them after public outrage over their place of voting. There was an apprehension that voter turnout of Bru refugees would be very less as some of their leaders were initially reluctant to come to Mizoram and were demanding the earlier system of exercising their franchise at the relief camps. "Around 55 per cent of the Bru refugees have voted. This percentage will go up further as around 200 more people are still waiting to cast their votes," a senior Election Commission official told PTI. The Bru voters are taking more time than usual because most of them are unaware of the EVM operation as till now, they have casted their votes through postal ballots from the camps, he added. The Election Commission of India (ECI) has created 15 special polling booths in Kanhmun village, along the Mizoram-Tripura border, for 11,987 Bru refugees who are part of nine Assembly constituencies in three districts of the hill state. Addressing a press conference at Aizawl, Mizoram Chief Electoral Officer Ashish Kundra said: "Voting at Kanhmun went very peacefully. My special gratitude to the civil society, particularly the Young Mizo Association (YMA), for going out of their way to help the Bru refugees in casting their votes." The YMA has put up a hoarding welcoming Bru voters, erected a tent with benches to sit and arranged pork curry for the refugees coming from six camps in Tripura that are situated at varying distances of 6-60 km from the border. "The gesture of the YMA and general public showed the rich tradition of the Mizo culture. The voting exercise at Kanhmun was successful through a partnership between the YMA and us," Kundra said. He also appreciated the Tripura government for arranging transportation facilities from the camps although the cost will be borne by the Mizoram CEO's office. "I am satisfied with the voters turnout at Kanhmun because some leaders were insisting on voting at the camps just 5-6 days ago. From there, we could create a congenial atmosphere within this short phase of time and today saw such a huge number," Kundra said. Since early Wednesday, people started coming in large numbers and at one point of time, security personnel had to come into the picture to streamline the queue in front of the YMA playground, where nine booths have been set up. Another six booths have been constructed inside a local badminton stadium, where two strong rooms will house the voting machines for three constituencies of Lunglei district overnight. Voting started at 7 am in the morning and ended at 3 pm at Kanhmun, while it went went till 4 pm in the rest of Mizoram. The place of voting for the Bru voters became the most controversial issue in the run up to the Mizoram Assembly polls, leading to the replacement of the chief electoral officer less than two weeks ahead of the elections. To solve the issue of the place of voting for Bru refugees residing in Tripura, Kundra personally visited Kanhmun village twice after taking charge on November 15 to oversee the arrangements. As per the direction of the ECI, a special team was formed under Kumar Abhishek, who has been flown in from Delhi after the crisis broke out, while Assistant Inspector General of Police (Training) Devesh was made in-charge of the security arrangements. The ECI has overnight air-dropped Bhuvanesh Yadav, the special secretary of Higher Education to the Chhattisgarh government, on Sunday as the specially appointed observer only for these 15 booths keeping in mind the sensitivity. PTI TR HCV IJT

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