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Meghalaya Assembly Election: 67% Polling Till 4 pm; Will Congress Get 3rd Time Lucky?

Of the three states where elections are taking place, Meghalaya is the only one which has a Congress government. The other two, Tripura, which went to polls on 18th February, has a Left Front government, while Nagaland is ruled by Naga People’s Front.

Subhajit Sengupta | CNN-News18SubhajitSG

Updated:February 27, 2018, 5:57 PM IST
Meghalaya Assembly Election: 67% Polling Till 4 pm; Will Congress Get 3rd Time Lucky?
People queue up to cast their votes in an Indian state (File photo)
New Delhi:Over 67 per cent votes were polled till 4 pm in Meghalaya Assembly election on Tuesday, an election official said.

"Till 4 pm, over 67 per cent of the 18.09 lakh voters in the state cast their votes. Polling was peaceful," Chief Election Officer F R Kharkongor said. He said polling percentage is likely to go up as long queues were reported in a number of polling stations even after the polling was scheduled to close at 4 pm.

Polling for the 60-member Meghalaya Assembly began at 7 am on Tuesday morning amid tight security. A state carved out of Assam in 1970, has almost always had a coalition government ruling it. In the 2013 polls, no other party apart from Congress managed to touch the double digit. Even Congress currently has only 24 seats, in the 60 member house.

Of the three states where elections are taking place, this is the only one which has a Congress government. Other two, Tripura which went to polls on 18th February has a Left Front government and Nagaland is ruled by Naga People’s Front.

But would Congress be third time lucky? Ruling the state for 10 years, Mukul Sangma is facing an uphill challenge. Leading the opposition pack is National People’s Party (NPP), founded by former Lok Sabha Speaker P.A. Sangma and now led by his son Conrad. Though the BJP is in alliance with NPP in Manipur, in Meghalaya there is no pre-poll alliance. But many expect them to join hands after the polls.

For the Bharatiaya Janta Party, this is the best possible chance. In 1998, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister, the party opened its account in the state with three seats. Since then, this is the best opportunity for them. Four sitting MLAs have joined the party and it is in a strong position in a number of other seats.

The main opposition party of the outgoing Assembly, United Democratic Party, led by former Chief Minister Donkupar Roy got eight seats last time. They have declared that the next government in the state would be a coalition of regional parties. Thus, this election could be in many ways the coming of age polls for NPP. Conrad, whose party had won just two seats in 2013, is now being spoken about as the possible Chief Ministerial candidate. But for that to happen, independent MLAs could play a crucial role. Since its inception, Meghalaya has been generous to its Independent MLAs, even the last Assembly term had 13 independent MLAs in the house.

This time, election in Meghalaya is taking place under the shadow of violence, especially in the Garo Hills. Suspected militants detonated an improvised explosive device which killed Jonathone N. Sangma, the Nationalist Congress Party candidate for the Williamnagar seat, in the East Garo Hills district. Since then a number of top militants were eliminated in the counter insurgency operations.

A total of 18.4 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise at 3,083 polling stations in the state. Chief Electoral Officer F R Kharkongor said 67 all-women polling stations and 61 model polling stations have been set up for the first time in the state. Thirty-two women are in the fray, the maximum so far in electoral politics in the state, he said.

Polling for 59 of the 60 Assembly seats was held in the north-eastern state. Polling was countermanded in the Williamnagar constituency due to the killing of NCP candidate Jonathone N Sangma ahead of the election.

In the last Assembly elections in 2013, about 88 per cent polling was recorded.
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