75 per cent turnout in Meghalaya Assy poll;Cong worker killed

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Shillong, Mar 3 (UNI) Barring the killing of a Congress worker in Selsella constituency, the election to 60-member Meghalaya Assembly passed off peacefully today with an estimated 75 per cent of over 1.2 million electorate exercising their democratic rights.

Election to Baghmara seat in South Garo Hills was countermanded following the death of Congress MLA and candidate Sengran M Sangma on February 16. Election would be held there on March 22.

Polling began at 0700 hrs on a sluggish note in all the 1,582 polling booths amid heavy security.

Chief Electoral Officer P Naik said around 75 per cent turnout was recorded in today's polling.

He said no untoward incident had been reported from anywhere barring the killing of Congress worker Bangbang Marak in Selsella constituency early today.

The deceased succumbed to injuries after three Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) workers allegedly assaulted him, West Garo Hills District Superintendent of Police J F Marak said.

The electoral fortunes of 331 candidates, including 19 women and 73 Independents, were decided today.

Incumbent Chief Minister D D Lapang and five former Chief Ministers, including J D Rymbai, Dr F A Khonglam, E K Mawlong and S C Marak besides, former Lok Sabha Speaker and NCP's Chief Ministerial candidate P A Sangma cast their ballots in their respective constituencies.

Nine Cabinet Ministers, one Minister of State, besides multi-millionaire Congress MLA Debora C Marak, UDP president and Deputy Chief Minister Dr Donkupar Roy and Deputy Chief Minister Dr Mukul M Sangma were amongst others, who also exercised their franchise.

In almost all the constituencies, the atmosphere was cheerful with supporters of rival parties parading up and down thronging the streets on motorcycles and other vehicles making efforts to ensure their candidate's victory.

Of the 60 constituencies, 36 were in the Khasi Jaintia Hills region and 24 in Garo Hills region.

Altogether 39 Poll Observers and 117 Magistrates were pressed into service to oversee the polls.

Assisting these officials were personnel from 26 state police and 41 additional paramilitary companies to ensure free and fair polls.

In all the polling stations, Electronic Voting Machines(EVMs) with Braille-coded push buttons were pressed into service this time for the physically challenged. Special ramps were also erected for handicapped people in all the polling booths.

Meanwhile, Mr Lapang said he was ready for a post-poll tie up with the NCP if the state threw up a fractured mandate.

Talking to newspersons after casting his vote in the Nongpoh lower primary school, 40 km from Guwahati, Mr Lapang said he would not have any problem in sharing an alliance with his bete noire P A Sangma of the NCP.

'' In the UPA Government at the Centre, the NCP is in coalition and I do not forsee any problem having an alliance either with Mr Sangma or his party in Meghalaya, '' Mr Lapang said admitting that no party would be in a position to form the government on its own.

UNI RRK SJC SS1856

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