Major parties assure political stabilty

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Shillong, Mar 1 (UNI) Curtains came down on electioneering in Meghalaya this evening with almost all parties promising political stability if they come to power in the 60-member Assembly, going to polls on March 3.

A slew of high profile politicians, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, NCP chief and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, BJP president Rajnath Singh and LJP chief and union minister Ram Vilas Paswan descended on this tiny hill state to assure all round development and stability.

Former Lok Sabha Speaker and NCP's chief ministerial candidate P A Sangma returned to state politics as ''the state had been lacking good governance''.

Among the parties are ruling Congress which has fielded candidates in all the seats. The UDP is in the fray in 52 seats, NCP in 50 and BJP in 21. Besides, there are 73 Independents.

A total of 18,55,686 electorate, including 6,25,534 women, will choose from 331 candidates. Though Meghalaya follows a matriarchal society, there are only 19 women contestants.

Among the star Congress candidates are outgoing Chief Minister D D Lapang, his deputy Dr Mukul M Sangma and former chief minister S C Marak.

Mr Lapang is facing a triangular contest in Nongpoh seat of Ri-Bhoi against his main rival Dr Celestine Lyngdoh of United Democratic Party (UDP).

Tura constituency in the West Garo Hills district registered the highest number of 39,706 voters while the lowest number was in Mawkhar with 7,762 electorate.

Arrangements had also been made for postal ballots for service holders and personnel on election duty. Moreover special arrangements were made for the physically challenged voters.

The total number of polling stations is 1,600--1,543 main and 57 auxiliary. The polling station having the least number of voters is Boirakupi under Dalu constituency with 70 voters.

The state election department has declared 635 polling stations as 'hyper sensitive' and 194 as 'sensitive'.

Chief Election Officer P K Naik told newspersons that adequate security arrangements had been made. He said 40 companies of Central Paramilitary Force(CPF) had been deployed across Meghalaya to ensure smooth polling.

Mr Naik said 39 election observers would oversee the smooth conduct of the polls.

The Border Security Force had also tightened vigil across the state's international border with Bangladesh.

Interestingly, Election officials have sought the help of forest and wildlife officials to ward off wild elephants who might disrupt the polls.

Meghalaya has an estimated 3,000 wild elephants and its East and West Garo Hills, West Khasi Hills and Ri-Bhoi districts are considered corridors for the animals. The state election department has marked several polling booths in elephant-infested areas as 'sensitive'.

UNI RRK DPM PL/src KK RN1527

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