Violence claims 1, 59% turnout in Meghalaya till 3PM

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Shillong, Mar 3 (UNI) Braving a wet weather, about 59 per cent of the over 12.30 lakh electorate cast their votes till 1500 hours today as polling was on peacefully for the 60-member Meghalaya Assembly.

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 hours on a sluggish note in all the 1,582 polling booths amidst heavy security.

Chief Electoral Officer P Naik told UNI that the poll percentage was expected to increase as a huge number of voters had queued before polling stations in almost all the constituencies as the last hour approached.

''Slips will be issued to those voters who are in queue to enable them cast their ballot before 1600 hours,'' Mr Naik said.

He added that there had been no report of threats or intimidations from any political party, barring the killing of a Congress worker in Selsella constituency early today.

Bangbang Marak (30) succumbed to injuries after three persons, alleged to be supporters of Nationalist Congress Party, assaulted him, West Garo Hills District, Superintendent of Police JF Marak told UNI here over phone from Tura.

The electoral fortunes of 331 candidates, including 19 women and 73 Independents, would be decided by about 12,30,152, voters, including 6,25,534 females.

Incumbent Chief Minister D D Lapang and five former chief ministers, including J D Rymbai, Dr FA Khonglam, EK Mawlong and SC Marak besides, former Lok Sabha Speaker and NCP's chief ministerial candidate PA 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, deputy chief minister Dr Mukul M Sangma, amongst others also exercised their franchise.

Interestingly, mostly women voters were seen in serpentine queues in Laitumkhrah and Laban Assembly constituencies.

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 are in the Khasi Jaintia Hills region and 24 in Garo Hills region.

Altogether, 39 Poll Observers and 117 Magistrates also headed to their respective destinations to oversee the polls.

Assisting these officials would be 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) have Braille-coded push buttons this time for the physically challenged. Special ramps were also erected for handicapped people in all the polling booths.

UNI RRK PL KLC1609

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