As India holds the latest round of its mammoth elections Friday, one man — polygamist and sect leader Zionnghaka Chana — has become the voter every local politician wants to know.
With 39 wives and 127 children and grandchildren, Chana is a voter like no other in the remote northeastern state of Mizoram, and can deliver a sizeable bloc of support.
“We were witnessing a rush of politicians seeking votes in the last few days,” Chana told AFP from his 100-room home in the hills of Baktawng village outside the state capital Aizawl.
“During every election we are much in demand as the winning margins of politicians in this state are slim, so even 100-odd votes matter to them,” Chana, 70, said earlier this week.
Mizoram is the only state voting on Friday, in the fourth of nine stages of voting in the world’s biggest election, after the Election Commission rescheduled polling following a dispute over whether tribal groups displaced during recent ethnic strife were allowed to vote in their refugee camps.
The state represents less than one percent of India’s 814 million-strong electorate. Voting across India ends on May 12, with results due four days later.
“When we go to vote, we always cast our ballots for the same candidate or party. That means more than 160-odd votes are assured from one family,” said one of Chana’s wives, Rinkmini.
Like most voters at this election, Chana said he wanted clean government and development so that his family could prosper.
“All we want is good governance and the wellbeing of the state instead of personal gains for our family from the politicians,” he said.
The sect, founded by Chana’s grandfather in the 1930s, has some 1,700 members including four generations of the Chana family, many of whom carve wooden furniture and make pottery items.
Its philosophy is based on Christian teachings, although leaders from the Presbyterian church, the main faith in the state, reject Chana’s embrace of polygamy.