Friday, December 1, 2023

Countdown begins for Meghalaya Assembly polls, battle for Shillong in focus

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Meghalaya is set to decide its political fate in the Assembly elections on Monday, following a high-pitched election campaign. There will be 3,419 polling stations across the state’s 59 Assembly constituencies. The polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 4 p.m. on Monday. Meghalaya has 60 Assembly constituencies, 36 of which are in the Khasi, Jaintia Hills region, and 24 in the Garo Hills region.

However, voting for the Sohiong Assembly constituency was postponed significantly due to the death of the state’s former Home Minister and United Democratic Party (UDP) candidate for the seat, HDR Lyngdoh. There are over 21 lakh voters (21,75,236), with 10.99 lakh women and 10.68 lakh men voting.

Women outnumber men in Meghalaya. The state has approximately 81,000 first-time voters.
There are 369 candidates in the running, 36 of whom are women. Of the total 3,419 polling stations, 120 will be entirely managed by women, 60 will be model polling stations, and the remaining 60 will be PWD polling stations.

The Election Commission has deployed 119 Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) companies in Meghalaya. 640 polling stations have been identified as ‘vulnerable,’ 323 as ‘critical,’ and 84 as both, according to Meghalaya Chief Electoral Officer FR Kharkongor.

The election commission on Saturday ordered the closure of Meghalaya’s international border with Bangladesh until March 2. Meghalaya shares a 443-kilometer border with Bangladesh and an 885-kilometer border with Assam. Meghalaya’s international border with Meghalaya and the state border with Assam have been sealed, according to Meghalaya’s Chief Electoral Officer, FR Kharkongor.

“We have taken preventive measures to ensure a free and fair election in the State. Section 144 of CrPC has been imposed along the international bordering areas in the state,” Kharkongor said.

Meanwhile, the district magistrate of East Khasi Hills district issued an order on Friday stating that movement of individuals will be strictly prohibited within a one-kilometer radius of the East Khasi Hills district’s India-Bangladesh border between February 24 and March 2.

The East Khasi Hills district administration has also imposed Section 144 of the CrPC along the bordering areas. To ensure a free and fair election, the Election Commission has prohibited the publication of exit poll projections in Meghalaya from 7 a.m. on Friday until 7 p.m. on February 27.

The current term of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly’s 60 members will end on March 15. The majority threshold in the state to form government is 31.

In the 2018 Assembly elections, the ruling National People’s Party (NPP) won 19 seats, the Congress won 21, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won two. Six seats were won by the United Democratic Party (UDP). Despite the fact that the Congress emerged as the single largest party, the NPP-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) formed the government, with support from the UDP, BJP, and other regional parties.

This time, the BJP and NPP have not formed a pre-election alliance and are campaigning separately. Both the BJP and the Congress have candidates in every seat. The Trinamool Congress (TMC), which took over as the main opposition party in Meghalaya in 2021 after 12 Congress MLAs defected, quickly became a formidable force, especially after former chief minister Mukul Sangma joined its ranks. The TMC has candidates running for 58 seats.

Conrad Sangma, the Chief Minister, is running from the South Tura constituency. Bernard N Marak, the BJP’s candidate, was pitted against the NPP’s leader. Chesterfield Sangma of the Congress Party is running against James Sangma of the NPP in Dadenggre. Former Chief Minister Mukul Sangma is running on the Trinamool ticket from two seats: Tikrikilla and Songsak. Metbah Lyngdoh, the UDP’s leader, is running from Mairang.

NPP also pitted Prestone Tynsong against Pynursla. Titosstar Well Chyne of the United Democratic Party is running from Sohra. TMC brought in Nongthymmai’s Charles Pyngrope. Sanbor Shullai ran in South Shillong, while Ernest Mawrie ran in West Shillong. Mazel Ampareen Lyngdoh is the NPP’s East Shillong candidate.

The BJP fielded Alexander Laloo Hek in Pynthorumkhrah. Lahkmen Rymbui, the UDP’s leader, is running from Amlarem. Congress ran Vincent H Pala in Sutnga Saipung. Kyrmen Shylla of the UDP is running from Khliehriat. The campaign for the Meghalaya elections concluded on Saturday.

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