Stage set for counting in Tripura, Meghalaya

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Agartala/Shillong, Mar 6: Electoral fortunes of 644 contestants would be decided tomorrow as counting of votes in the Assembly elections in Tripura and Meghalaya is taken up amid tight security. The polls were held on February 23 in Tripura and March 3 in Meghalaya. Both states have 60 seats each.

While the fate of 313 candidates hangs fire in Tripura, 331 aspirants are waiting for the results in Meghalaya. The Election Commission (EC) has made all arrangements for the smooth counting of votes for the 10th Tripura Assembly and the Meghalaya Assembly elections. Apart from about 700 observers and 2,500 counting personnel, the EC has made a three-tier security arrangement around each counting hall at 19 stations of Tripura, while imposing several restrictions on the political parties during the counting.

Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) G S G Ayyangar said the counting would be conducted on 707 tables and the first layer of security manned by central security forces, while two others will be guarded by TSR jawans.

The CEO held meetings with all the district-level election officials and asked the concerned officials, including District Magistrates, Returning Officers and counting personnel to make the process trouble free and uphold the record of model election.

Meanwhile, prohibitory orders have already been imposed in and around the counting stations and the state police taken due precautions in sensitive localities to contain possible post-poll violence.

Police said both the CPI(M) and the Congress-INPT had raised allegations of threat and intimidations against each other, following the polls on February 23 last, which compelled the police to hold road-shows and special operations. The Police had taken additional measures for counting for the March 7 polls to maintain peace in the state and adequate paramilitary forces have reportedly been deployed in certain locations, considering the sensitivity of these areas.

Tripura set a record voter turnout in electoral history in post-Independence era in the country at 91.86 per cent in this year's state assembly elections.

Aspirants in the state include Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, ten of his Cabinet colleagues and senior Congress leaders and former chief ministers Samir Ranjan Barman and Sudhir Ranjan Majumdar.

Prominent leaders of the Congress-INPT alliance are Maharani Bibhukumari Devi and militant-turned-legislator Bijoy Kumar Harangkhwal.

The ruling CPI(M)-led Left Front was locked in a direct fight with Opposition Congress-Indigenous Party of Tripura (INPT) alliance.

In Meghalaya, election to the Baghmara seat in South Garo Hills was countermanded following the death of Congress MLA and candidate Sengran M Sangma. Polling would be held there on March 22 while counting will be held on March 24.

About 1,899 polling personnel and 39 election observers have been assigned in 15 counting centres spread over seven districts headquarters and six civil sub-divisions across the state, Chief Electoral Officer P Naik told UNI here.

Of the total 12,14,010 electorate, the CEO said 10,81,023 votes were polled on March 3.

The main electoral battle is among three major political parties -- Congress, NCP and United Democratic Party (UDP). However, in the Garo hills, the tussle is mainly between the NCP and Congress, while in the Khasi Hills, comprising three districts of East and West Khasi Hills and Ri-Bhoi, the competition is between the UDP and Congress.

Important leaders whose fate will be decided are incumbent Chief Minister D D Lapang (Nongpoh seat) and his deputies--Dr Mukul M Sangma (Ampatigiri) and Dr Donkupar Roy (Shella), Assembly Speaker Martin M Danggo (Langrin) and his deputy P W Muktieh (Mawhati).

Five former Chief Ministers J D Rymbai (Jirang), Dr F A Khonglam (Sohra), E K Mawlong (Umroi) and S C Marak (Resubelpara) besides former Lok Sabha Speaker P A Sangma (Tura) were in the electoral battle.


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