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70% turnout in Meghalaya councils polls

Shillong, Feb. 24: Over 70 per cent voters in Meghalaya’s Khasi-Jaintia hills region turned out to seal the fates of 212 candidates who are vying for seats in Khasi Hills autonomous district council (KHADC) and Jaintia Hills autonomous district council (JHADC).

While polling was largely peaceful, an electronic voting machine was smashed inside a polling station while a house of a polling agent was set on fire in West Jaintia Hills.

In spite of “dry days” having been declared since Saturday, two government officials who were presiding officers were in the dock after they were found inebriated while on duty.

There are 29 seats each in the two councils. There are 123 and 89 candidates who are vying for a seat in the KHADC and JHADC respectively. There are 668,398 electors in the Khasi council and 209,217 in the Jaintia Hills council.

Voting took place from 7am and ended at 4pm. In the morning hours, the turnout in majority of constituencies was low, but picked up as the polling hours progressed. Women voters were seen to be more conscious about their constitutional right to franchise.

Briefing reporters this evening, commissioner and secretary (district council affairs department) Jopthiaw Lyngdoh said the accurate figure of voter turnout would be clear by tomorrow morning as most of the polling officials were yet to reach their respective district headquarters.

Lyngdoh said as per data available until 7pm, turnout in areas within the KHADC was nearly 70.86 per cent while in the JHADC it was 58 per cent. However, he stated that the figures would alter once the final computation of data is completed.

Meghalaya’s deputy inspector-general of police (eastern range) A. Sunn said around 40 people entered Umladang polling station under 8-Nartiang-Umladang constituency where they allegedly smashed a voting machine.

“The polling agent of NCP candidate Moina Phyllut left the booth on the pretext of unavoidable circumstances. After a while, Phyllut himself barged into the booth and complained that his agent was intimidated. When Phyllut left, a mob of around 30 to 40 people entered the booth and destroyed the voting machine,” Sunn said.

The second polling officer, K. Dhar, who said he was assaulted by the mob, lodged a police complaint. Police suspect that the polling agent had a role in the incident.

However, later in the evening, Sunn said people belonging to Umladang set fire to the house of the polling agent. Till now no arrest has been made for smashing the voting machine.

Repoll at Umladang polling station will be held on Wednesday along with polls at Marngor polling station within 24 Pariong-Mawthadraishan constituency. Two villages — Phyllut and Mawkhan Wahkhwang — under the Marngor polling station, were found to be “missing” from the electoral roll.

Officials also had to replace two presiding officers, one at Wahlyngkhat polling station under Lyngkyrdem-Laitkroh constituency and the other at Mawkhlam polling station under Nongstoin constituency after they were found drunk. T. Kshiar, an assistant engineer under the Nongstoin community and rural development block who was the presiding officer at the Mawkhlam polling station, was placed under police custody.

M. Marpna, an assistant research officer of the agriculture department who was the presiding officer at Wahlyngkhat polling station, will also face action.

Counting of votes will take place on Thursday in six districts and two sub-divisions.


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