Voters at St Jerome School, Nongmynsong, under the Pynthormukhrah constituency. Telegraph picture
Shillong, Feb. 23: The people of Meghalaya today defied the bandh call by Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council and came out in large numbers, determined to exercise their franchise.
An impressive 88 per cent of the electorate in the state voted as polling came to a close at 4pm. All that the separatist HNLC managed to do with its strike call on election day was to scrape off 1.04 per cent from the 2008 voting percentage of 89.04 in the state.
The courage of the people aside, some additional factors, including the delimitation of constituencies post-2008 polls, the creations of four new districts last year and with that the addition of four superintendents of police and four deputy commissioners to the state, vulnerability mapping of constituencies and the sustained and intensive awareness drive launched by the Election Commission are believed to have contributed to today’s successful polls.
Meghalaya has in this election seen an increase of 886 polling stations — from 1,599 to 2,485 — compared to what it had in 2008.
“Post-delimitation, the number of polling stations was increased, which gave voters easier accessibility to polling booths,” Meghalaya chief electoral officer Prashant Naik said.
Around 91 companies of central paramilitary forces were deployed across the state where 900 polling stations were declared hypersensitive.
“Everything was peaceful today during the polling,” additional director-general of police (law and order) Y.C. Modi said this evening.
Voting in the state, which has 15,03,907 voters comprising 7,44,299 men and 7,59,608 women, began at 7am across all the 2,485 polling stations in the Khasi-Jaintia and Garo hills regions.
The Khasi-Jaintia hills, with six districts, houses 36 of the state’s 60 Assembly constituencies, while the remaining 24 are in the five Garo hills districts that did not face a strike call from any quarter.
The HNLC had called the strike in Khasi-Jaintia hills. Though the strike commenced at 6pm yesterday, and will end at 6am tomorrow, the voter turnout was reported to be high.
In East Jaintia Hills, comprising two constituencies, the voter turnout was 92.25 per cent, while in West Jaintia Hills (five constituencies), the turnout was around 90 per cent.
In Ri Bhoi (five constituencies) the turnout was around 88 per cent, while in East Khasi Hills (16 constituencies) the turnout, tentatively, was more than 80 per cent. West Khasi Hills with three constituencies had a tentative turnout of 80 per cent, while in South West Khasi Hills (two constituencies), more than 78 per cent of the people exercised their franchise.
No major untoward incident was reported from any part of the state today, barring an incident of EVM smashing reported from Nartiang constituency in West Jaintia Hills.
“Exercises such as delimitation and creation of new districts went a long way in the micro-management of the polls,” said Pravin Bakshi, deputy commissioner of West Garo Hills, which recorded a voter turnout of 86.3 per cent and elects 11 MLAs.
Prominent among those whose fate was determined today are chief minister Mukul M. Sangma, PCC president D.D. Lapang, United Democratic Party chief Donkupar Roy, Hill State People’s Democratic Party supremo Hopingstone Lyngdoh, National People’s Party leader Conrad K. Sangma and NCP president Sanbor Shullai.
Members of the Mukul Sangma cabinet who were in the fray included deputy chief ministers Rowell Lyngdoh and Bindo M. Lanong, home minister H.D.R. Lyngdoh, education minister R.C. Laloo, forest minister Prestone Tynsong, power minister Abu Taher Mondal, social welfare minister John A. Lyngdoh, water resources minister A.L. Hek and PHE minister Shitlang Pale.
Among the 345 candidates, 25 were women, including the chief minister’s wife, Dikkanchi D. Shira, urban affairs minister Ampareen Lyngdoh, PCC working president Deborah C. Marak and former ministers Roshan Warjri and Irin Lyngdoh.