Shillong/Kohima: Polling for the 60-member Meghalaya Assembly began at 7 AM today amid tight security with over 18 lakh voters eligible to exercise their franchise in more than 3,000 polling stations across the State.
Voting will be held in 59 seats as the election in Williamnagar in East Garo Hills district has been countermanded, following the killing of NCP candidate Jonathane N Sangma in an IED blast on 18 February.
Women voters in their colourful tribal attires were seen queueing up at the polling stations since morning.
Polling will be held till 4 PM across the State.
Meghalaya’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) FR Kharkongor said a total of 106 companies of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) were deployed, along with the State armed personnel and police, especially in the troubled Garo Hills region.
He added that six additional companies of CAPF were deployed in the troubled East and South Garo Hills districts.
Today’s polling will decide the fate of 361 candidates, including 31 women and 80 Independents, election office sources said, adding that 18.09 lakh voters were eligible to exercise their franchise in 3,025 polling stations in the State.
The BSF has also been asked to keep a close vigil along the 443-km-long India-Bangladesh border, the CEO said.
The Election Commission (EC) has appointed 43 observers to ensure hassle-free polls, he added.
In Meghalaya, except for the two state parties the United Democratic Party and the Hills State People’s Democratic Party which have forged a pre-poll alliance and are contesting from 45 seats, 13 other political parties have fielded candidates independently.
The Congress and the BJP are pitted against each other in the north-eastern State with the former fielding 59 candidates and the latter putting up nominees in 47 constituencies.
Though they are contesting the polls separately, in Meghalaya, the National People’s Party (NPP) of Conrad Sangma, son of former Lok Sabha speaker PA Sangma, is the BJP’s partner in the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA).
For the Congress, the poll outcome in Meghalaya is particularly significant as it has been ruling the State for the last 10 years.
Buoyed by the formation of governments in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, the saffron party is seeking to expand its footprint in the north-east.
Election to the 60-member Nagaland Assembly also began at 7 AM today amid tight security as more than half of 2,156 polling stations have been declared critical.
With Nationalist Democratic People’s Party(NDPP) chief Neiphiu Rio winning unopposed the Northern Angami-II seat, polling is being held in 59 seats.
Voting will continue till 4 PM, except in some polling stations of the interior districts where it will end at 3 PM, election office sources said.
Officials said many of 281 companies of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF), beside the state police force have been deployed throughout Nagaland to ensure peaceful polling.
Nagaland Chief Electoral Officer Abhijit Sinha said of the 2,156 polling stations in Nagaland, 1,100 have been declared critical, 530 vulnerable and 526 normal.
All the polling stations would be manned by the CAPF personnel and the state police would also be assisting them, he added.
A total of 11,76,432 voters, comprising of 5,97,281 male, 5,79,151 female and 5884 service voters, are eligible to exercise their franchise during the day to decide the fate of 195 candidates.
There are no third-gender voters in the state while the first time voters between the age group 18-19 years are 26,900, Assistant Chief Electoral Officer, Awa Lorin said today.
Electronic voting machines with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail machines will be used for voting, he added.
The election process in Nagaland had started on a difficult note with the Core Committee of Nagaland Tribal Hohos and Civil Organisations (CCNTHCO) advocating “solution (to the Naga political issue) before the election”.
Following this no-election diktat, the political parties had initially kept away from the poll process and the first batch of 22 contestants filed their candidature only on the penultimate day on 5 February, though the filing of nominations had begun on 31 January.
There was a heavy rush of nominees filing their papers on the last day.
BJP, which is determined to expand its footprint in the northeast this time after Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, is relying on its partner, the NDPP.
In Nagaland, BJP’s hope hinges on its alliance partner NDPP which is contesting from 40 seats. The saffron party has fielded candidates from the remaining 20 seats.
The Congress, which has given three chief ministers to Nagaland since the State’s inception in 1963, is contesting from only 18 seats – two less than the BJP.
The results of the polls in Nagaland will be declared along with those of Tripura and Meghalaya on 3 March.