Meghalaya set for Monday’s poll, 331 candidates in fray


Shillong : Meghalaya is set for Monday’s election to the 60-member assembly with three major parties, the Congress, the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) poised to put up a tough fight.

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A total of 331 candidates representing 13 political parties and 73 independent candidates are in the fray in the single phase polling for the eighth Meghalaya state assembly. The polling in one constituency has been postponed following the death of a candidate.

While the Congress is contesting all the 60 seats, the UDP has put up candidates in 52 seats and the NCP is contesting 50 seats.

More than 1.2 million voters are to exercise their franchise that will also determine the fate of six former chief ministers – D.D. Lapang, Purno A. Sangma, Salseng C. Marak, E.K. Mawlong, F.A. Khonglam and J.D. Rymbai.

“We have enlisted the services of around 15,000 personnel for election duty across the state. Voting will begin at 7 a.m. Monday and end at 4 p.m.,” said Meghalaya chief electoral officer P. Naik.

The authorities have deployed 41 additional paramilitary companies to maintain vigil during polling in 1,599 polling stations across the state. A total of 635 polling stations have been categorized as ‘hypersensitive’ and 194 have been bracketed as ‘sensitive.’

Militancy is not a very big issue in the state this time. The rebel Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) had called for a 12-hour state- wide general strike to protest the visit of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for electioneering in the state.

The strike did not evoke much response. The Congress president did make a firm commitment of her party ushering in progress and prosperity, if voted to power.

The NCP under the leadership of former Lok Sabha speaker P.A. Sangma and a host of independents have emerged as major challengers to the Congress in the state.

The Congress that has been heading the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance coalition, witnessed inner-party dissent after veteran party leader D.D. Lapang was reinstated as chief minister by replacing party colleague J.D. Rymbai.

“We shall form the next government,” Sangma claimed during his campaign. But, the 73 independent candidates who are in the fray could well play the role of king makers in the event of a hung Assembly.