85 pc votes registered in Meghalaya's Baghmara bypoll

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Shillong, Mar 22 (UNI) An estimated 85 per cent of 18,264 electorate cast their votes today as polling continued for the Baghmara Assembly by-election.

Polling began at 0700 hours on a sluggish note in all 18 polling booths amidst heavy security. Two companies each of CRPF and state police battalion were deployed to conduct the election smoothly.

''We expect the turnout to cross over 85 per cent. There was no incident of violence from anywhere during the bypoll,'' Chief Electoral Officer P Naik told UNI here.

Electronic voting machines were used in all the polling booths in the constituency.

The by-election was necessitated following the sudden demise of Congress MLA and candidate Sengran M Sangma on February 16.

The Congress had suffered a major jolt ahead of the bypolls after Congress workers in Baghmara constituency enmasse quit the party in protest against the Congress High Command allotting party ticket to Arjun Momin, son of late Sengran M Sangma.

However, Congress leaders exuded confidence to retain the seat with the party banking on the electorate on sympathy wave.

The ruling Meghalaya Progressive Alliance (MPA), a combined of United Democratic Party and Nationalist Congress Party also claimed to wrest the Baghmara seat away from the Congress.

''We are confident that the NCP will wrest the seat away from the Congress,'' Finance Minister and NCP Spokesman Conrad A Sangma said.

The Nationalist Congress Party has fielded Satto Marak as its nominee, while the United Democratic Party fielded Ms Florence Sangma. There are also four Independent candidates Ms Gentilla R Marak, Hembilstone K Sangma, Julius Sangma and Lazarus M Sangma.

The Baghmara by-election would be a litmus test for the ruling Meghalaya Progressive Alliance government, which took over the reins from the Congress four days ago.

The Congress, which emerged as the single largest party, was short of just six seats to cross the majority threshold in the House. In fact, the Congress required just three more legislators to tip the balance in their favour but failed to sway any so far.

On the other hand, five non-Congress parties, under the banner of the Meghalaya Progressive Alliance (MPA) has 31 legislators. The MPA combine of NCP (14), UDP (11), Hill State Peoples Democratic Party (2), one each from the BJP and the Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement and two Independent MLAs, have a total strength of 31 in the 60-member Assembly.

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