Aizawl: Close on the heels of the removal of S.B. Shashank, chief election officer (CEO) of the Mizoram Election Commission, joint chief electoral officer Zorammuana was removed from his post on November 20.
According to reliable sources in the state EC office, Zorammuana was relieved of his post “mainly due to a letter he wrote to the district election commissioner (the local deputy commissioner) of the Kolashib district on November 6 asking him to conduct public hearings on the appeals done to review the authenticity of the names of Bru voters in the district’s electoral rolls prior to the assembly polls in the presence of village elders and NGOs”.
Following a visit to six relief camps in north Tripura where Bru refugees have been living after an ethnic conflict in 1997, the EC readied the special summary roll revision for the 2018 assembly polls. The revised voters list shows an increase of 805 voters. The new CEO, Ashish Kundra, told mediapersons at a press meet on November 22 that the commission received “900 plus appeals against (Bru voters) which were rejected. Then another 900 plus re-appeals were received out of which 200-plus were accepted. And we are examining them.”
On being asked how the names were being authenticated without a public hearing, he said it was on the basis of documents supplied by the voters. He also told the press that efforts were being made to issue election slips to Bru voters by November 24 so that they could vote in Kanhmun in Mamit district, the last village of Mizoram bordering Tripura, about 60 km from the camps. Transport arrangements for the voters “is still being looked into”.
Sources told The Wire that the joint CEO, a Mizo, wrote the letter “under pressure from NGO leaders as a huge crowd protested in front of the DC’s office demanding his removal as 209 new Bru voters were enrolled in the district without a public hearing, and something had to be done to diffuse the situation.”
Zorammuana’s letter, written in Mizo language, not only asked the collector to conduct public hearings but also to “delete all those names which were wrongfully accepted as per Form 7 (issued by the EC)”. Though the protest took place on November 14, the joint CEO’s letter was dated November 6, when the massive protests were on in Aizawl to remove CEO Shashank.
The joint CEO’s letter was not taken lightly by the New Delhi office of the EC. An official, on the condition of anonymity, claimed that “the occasion came to remove him from his post when a few days ago he absented himself from work as his child was unwell, and a senior official held a video conference with state officials on marking and distributing EVMs. The officer in charge in the absence of the joint CEO did not know much about it. On finding out that Zorammuana was absent from work on the day of a crucial election meeting, the senior official sought his immediate suspension. However, other senior officials didn’t agree as it could lead to another bout of tension in the state. Then the decision was taken to remove him from the post and send him back to the state government.”
On November 20, an order issued by Lalzarmawii, the assistant CEO, relieved Zorammuana of his services. The letter said, “It (the order) has the approval of the Chief Electoral Officer,” adding that he “is hereby placed at the disposal of the Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms (CSW) for further posting by the Government of Mizoram.”
On being asked about it, CEO Kundra played down the decision and told The Wire, “Most of the work has now gone down to the level of the returning officer. We are only looking at the overall conduct of elections here in the main office. So we don’t need the services of a joint CEO. He is a competent officer; he can be better used by the state government.”
When contacted, Zorammuana refused to comment, only saying that he is awaiting his next posting.