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Rebels rear ugly head in phase II

Shillong/Tura, April 9: Militants left their signature on elections in Meghalaya, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh while alleged proxy voting in Nagaland laid to waste all efforts by the election department and the Nagaland Baptist Church Council to woo voters today.

In Meghalaya, the adjudicators ranged from the state’s First Citizen, Krishan Kant Paul, to common denizens.

Voters in both the Shillong and Tura parliamentary constituencies queued up at their respective polling booths to choose their representatives to the Lok Sabha since 7am. The intervening hours saw a sluggish turnout but voting picked up again in the evening.

The battle in both the constituencies was clearly between continuity and change, and until 3pm, the turnout in Shillong and Tura seats was a mere 53 per cent. The estimated poll percentage at the end of the day was 68 per cent (74 per cent in Tura and 62 per cent in Shillong).

Accompanied by supporters and family members, the eight candidates from Shillong and the two contenders from Tura voted in their respective polling stations.

Although the election department had taken pains to motivate voters in urban centres, the enthusiasm was more in the rural hinterland. Those in the fray from the Shillong seat included sitting MP Vincent H. Pala of the Congress, legislator Paul Lyngdoh from the UDP, Shibun Lyngdoh (BJP), Richard Shabong (CPI), Armerington Kharshiing (AAP) and Independent candidates P.B.M. Basaiawmoit, Denis Siangshai and Ivoryna Shylla.

Former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno Agitok Sangma from the NPP is seeking his 10th victory to Parliament. However, he has to get past Congress nominee Daryl William Cheran Momin.

First-time voters and youths, comprising about 40 per cent, came out in large number across Garo hills. Vanesa Sawkime, 18, a first time voter said, “It was a wonderful experience to vote. I have voted for my candidate and hopes he wins for change to happen”.

Administrator of Sherwood School Bruce Beddoe told The Telegraph, “This is my last voting at Government Boy’s Higher Secondary School, as I have changed my address. It is a nostalgic feeling that next time I will not be voting in this polling station”.

Muktadul Hussain, 25, who cast his vote at Ringre Gittim Lower Primary School said, “I have voted with great expectations. I believe the candidate I have voted will work for greater interest of the nation and Garo hills”.

In Shillong parliamentary constituency, with 36 Assembly segments, voting took place amid a 12-hour shutdown called by the proscribed Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), which commenced from 5am.

On the other hand, militants reportedly fired blanks at Tolegre in South Garo Hills of Meghalaya around 10am. Overall though, voting for the Tura seat, the second in the state, was peaceful.

Meghalaya chief electoral officer Prashant Naik said some voting machines had to be replaced before the polling started and after the voting commenced.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the turnout in Shillong was 62.23 per cent while in Tura it was 67.66 per cent. In the 2013 Assembly polls, the turnout was around 88 per cent.

Naik also said in Tura parliamentary constituency, there were five cases of EVM malfunctioning. However, they were subsequently replaced.

M.K. Preshow Shimray, Deputy Speaker of Manipur Assembly, escaped a bomb attack unscathed, though his vehicle was partially damaged, at Litan in Ukhrul district, 23km from Imphal.

Police said militants triggered an improvised explosive device planted by the roadside as Shimray’s convoy was passing through the area along Imphal-Ukhrul road shortly after noon.

Shimray was returning to Imphal after casting his vote at Poi village in Chingai Assembly constituency of Ukhrul for the Outer Manipur seat, polling for which was held today.

Apart from the ambush, there were reports of attempts by criminals to disrupt polling in one booth in Chandel district. However, security personnel manning the booth foiled the attempt.

Suspected NSCN (I-M) cadres damaged an electronic voting machine at Lambung polling station in Chandel district. Repoll is likely in this polling station.

In Nagaland, the election department registered a high voting percentage of 84.6, although people hardly turned up to vote for the lone Lok Sabha seat. Most of the polling stations in the state capital Kohima remained almost deserted. One of the polling stations was closed around 12 noon as people did not come to vote.

Similar reports were received from other districts like Zunheboto, Wokha, Dimapur and Mokokchung.

S. Nithiamndam, director-general of police, Arunachal Pradesh, told The Telegraph that Yumsum Matey, representing Khonsa West, was allegedly kidnapped in the morning by underground elements but was subsequently released after intervention by security forces.

Chief electoral officer C.B. Kumar said that violence was reported in three polling stations in East Kameng district, two in Kurung Kumey, and one in Upper Subansiri which falls under the Arunachal West parliamentary constituency and one in East Siang in Arunachal East. Kumar said that repolling in these areas is likely to take place.

The villagers of Sissen in the Nugong Banggo area near Pasighat in East Siang district refused to budge from the “No road, no vote” stance they had adopted to voice their anger over the absence of proper road connectivity to their village.