SHILLONG: The voting for the Meghalaya Assembly elections began amid tight security on Monday. Before voting, mock polls were conducted in the constituencies.
Polling is being held at 3,419 polling stations across 59 Assembly constituencies in the state. The voting will continue till 4 pm on Monday. Of the 60 Assembly constituencies in Meghalaya, 36 constituencies fall in Khasi, Jaintia Hills region while 24 are in Garo Hills region.
Significantly, however, polling for the Sohiong Assembly constituency was postponed following the demise of the state's former Home Minister and United Democratic Party (UDP) candidate from the seat HDR Lyngdoh.
There are over 21 lakh electorates (21,75,236) of which 10.99 lakh are women and 10.68 lakh are male voters. In Meghalaya, the woman voters are in higher numbers than their male counterparts. There are about 81,000 first-time voters in the state. As many as 369 candidates are in the fray of which 36 are women.
Of the total 3,419 polling stations, 120 are all women-managed polling stations, 60 are model polling stations and another 60 are PWD polling stations.
The Election Commission has deployed 119 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) in Meghalaya. Chief Electoral Officer, Meghalaya FR Kharkongor said 640 polling stations are identified as 'vulnerable', 323 are 'critical' and 84 are identified as both.
The poll panel on Saturday ordered the sealing of Meghalaya's International border with Bangladesh till March 2. Meghalaya shares a 443 km border with Bangladesh and 885 km with Assam.
Chief Electoral Officer, Meghalaya FR Kharkongor, told ANI that, Meghalaya's International border with Bangladesh and the state border with Assam have been sealed.
"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 on Friday issued an order that movement of individuals will remain strictly prohibited within a one km radius of the India-Bangladesh border of East Khasi Hills district between February 24 and March 2.
The district administration of East Khasi Hills district has also imposed Section 144 of CrPC along the bordering areas. To ensure a free and fair election, Election Commission has banned publication of exit poll projections in Meghalaya from 7 am on Friday to 7 pm on the polling day -- February 27.
The current term of the 60-seat Meghalaya Legislative Assembly will conclude on March 15. The majority mark to form government in the state is 31. In the 2018 Assembly polls, the ruling National People's Party (NPP) got 19 seats, Congress bagged 21 seats and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) managed to win two seats.
The United Democratic Party (UDP) grabbed six seats. Though Congress emerged as the single largest party, the government was formed by the NPP-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) with support from UDP, BJP and other regional parties.
This time, the BJP and NPP have not stitched any prepoll alliance and are going solo. BJP and Congress have fielded candidates in all the seats. The Trinamool Congress (TMC), which became the main opposition party in Meghalaya in 2021 following the defection of 12 Congress MLAs, became a formidable force, especially after former chief minister Mukul Sangma joined its ranks. The TMC has fielded candidates in 58 seats.
Chief Minister Conrad Sangma is contesting from South Tura constituency. BJP fielded Bernard N Marak against the NPP chief. In Dadenggre, Congress candidate Chesterfield Sangma is contesting against NPP's James Sangma.
Former CM Mukul Sangma is contesting from two seats -- Tikrikilla and Songsak on Trinamool's ticket. UDP leader Metbah Lyngdoh is contesting from Mairang.
Further, NPP pitted Prestone Tynsong from Pynursla. UDP candidate Titosstar Well Chyne is contesting from Sohra. TMC fielded Charles Pyngrope from Nongthymmai. BJP fielded Sanbor Shullai in South Shillong and Ernest Mawrie in West Shillong. Mazel Ampareen Lyngdoh is NPP's candidate from East Shillong.
In Pynthorumkhrah, BJP fielded Alexander Laloo Hek. UDP leader Lahkmen Rymbui is contesting from Amlarem. In Sutnga Saipung, Congress fielded Vincent H Pala. UDP candidate Kyrmen Shylla is contesting from Khliehriat. The campaigning for Meghalaya polls ended on Saturday.
From NPP to BJP and Congress to Trinamool, parties showcased all might when it comes to campaigning. Be it poll promises or attacking contending forces with slogans, the contesting parties lost no chance to have a go at each other during the campaign phase.
The BJP showed its strength, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, party president JP Nadda and Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma holding rallies. PM Modi also held a roadshow in Shillong on Friday.
Rahul Gandhi, who was missing from the campaign scene in Tripura, held a rally in Shillong. Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee held public meetings in Meghalaya. TMC MP Mahua Moitra also canvassed for party candidates in the state. The counting of votes will be done on March 2.
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