The countdown to the Meghalaya Assembly elections has begun, with over 21 lakh voters deciding the fate of 369 candidates on Monday. 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 Khasi, Jaintia Hills, and 24 in Garo Hills.
However, voting in the Sohiong Assembly constituency has been postponed due to the death of the state’s former Home Minister and UDP candidate for the seat, HDR Lyngdoh. This year, there are over 21 lakh (21,75,236) registered and eligible voters, with 10.99 lakh women and 10.68 lakh men.
In Meghalaya, women outnumber men in the voting booth. The state has approximately 81,000 first-time voters. There are 369 candidates in the running, 36 of whom are women. 44 of the total candidates are running as Independents.
The ruling National People’s Party (NPP), which is seeking re-election, may face anti-incumbency challenges this time. One of the key poll issues this time is the lack of infrastructure development in remote and hilly areas. Furthermore, the NPP government is dogged by corruption allegations.
Illegal coal mining in Jaintia and Khasi Hills is another factor that could influence the outcome of this year’s elections. Unemployment is a pet grouse and demand of the youth when it comes to key poll issues. In their manifestos, all parties promised job creation and the creation of election opportunities.
The NPP attacked the BJP over the long-pending issue of Meghalaya’s Inner Line Permit (ILP). An Inner Line Permit is an official travel document issued by a state government that allows a national to enter a protected area for a limited period of time.
Christian and non-Christian votes are also important in Meghalaya polls, particularly in the Khasi Hills region. Meghalaya BJP chief Ernest Mawrie said on Friday that if the BJP wins power in the poll-bound state, there will be no restrictions on people eating beef. Ernest Mawrie told ANI that Meghalaya is a Christian-majority state, and that if the BJP wins power, Christians will have more security.
“We will not impose any restriction on consuming beef in Meghalaya. If we will form the government, then it will be better for Meghalaya. We will give full protection to the Christians of Meghalaya. Eating habit is our culture, BJP will not impose any restrictions on them. Many of us eat pork, beef, chicken, and fish. There is no problem with our party. We have not held any discussions on this. There will be no restriction,” Mawrie said.
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 the support of 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. TMC ran candidates for 58 seats.
Conrad Sangma, the Chief Minister, is running from the South Tura constituency, while the BJP has put Bernard N Marak up against the NPP chief. 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.
Charles Pyngrope of Nongthymmai has been assigned to the TMC. Sanbor Shullai ran in South Shillong, while Ernest Mawrie ran in West Shillong. Mazel Ampareen Lyngdoh is the NPP’s East Shillong candidate.
Mamata Banerjee, the leader of the Trinamool Congress, held public meetings in Meghalaya. TMC MP Mahua Moitra campaigned for the party in the state as well.
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. On Saturday, the Election Commission 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 Myanmar and state border with Assam have been sealed, according to FR Kharkongor, Chief Electoral Officer.
“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.