Over 30 per cent polling was recorded in the first five hours on Tuesday in assembly elections in Meghalaya where Chief Minister Mukul Sangma voiced confidence that the Congress will retain power.
Sangma said his party will cross the magic-figure of 31 in the 60-member state assembly as 31.40 per cent of the 18.9 lakh voters exercised their franchise till 1.00 p.m.
“I have full faith on the people of the state. I believe that they have full confidence on the Congress party. We will cross the magic number,” Sangma told journalists after casting his vote at Chengkompara polling station in Ampati assembly constituency.
Sangma, the chief architect of the Congress win on 29 seats in the 2013 elections, is contesting from two assembly seats Ampati and Songsak
In Songsak, Sangma takes on two-time National People’s Party legislator Nihim D. Shira, while in Ampati, he is in a direct fight against Bharatiya Janata Party nominee Bakul Hajong.
Hoping Stone Lyngdoh, who was President of the Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) till his death, had successfully contested from two Assembly seats — the erstwhile Pariong (now Mawthadraishan) and Nongstoin in the 1988 elections.
Asked whether the Congress has already decided to choose its partners in case it fell short of majority, the veteran Congress said: “We do have lots of good friends.”
In the 2013 assembly elections, the Congress won in 29 seats and later increased its tally to 30 after it won the Chokpot Assembly by-poll in 2015.
The Congress — ruling the state for a decade — has fielded candidates in all 60 seats, of which 59 saw polling on Tuesday.
However, seven of its legislators have since quit and jumped on to the bandwagon of the alliance formed by the BJP, National People’s Party (NPP) and newly floated People’s Democratic Front (PDF).
The combined regional alliance comprising United Democratic Party, HSPDP and Garo National Council, also was gung-ho about electoral victory.
“From reports that I have received so far, we are confident to unseat the Congress from power and form a pro- people and corruption-free government,” UDP chief Donkupar Roy told IANS.
The NPP, which won two seats in the 2013 assembly poll and is fighting the elections alone, is hopeful of increasing the numbers as five former Congress legislators are contesting on NPP symbol this time.
“We are hopeful of emerging as the single largest party in the Assembly and form the government,” NPP President Conrad K. Sangma said.
Governor Ganga Prasad exercised his franchise at the Oakland polling station under North Shillong Assembly constituency.
Former Union Minister and NPP candidate Agatha K Sangma, Home Minister H.D.R. Lyngdoh of the Congress, Leader of Opposition Donkupar Roy of the UDP and HSPDP chief Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit also exercised their franchise.
As many as 340 polling stations have been categorised as “critical” and 580 as “vulnerable”.
Balloting in 183 polling stations is being webcast, to be made available at the offices of Chief Electoral Officer or District Electoral Officer and the Election Commission, state Chief Electoral Officer Frederick Roy Kharkongor said.
As many as 66 all-women polling stations and 61 model polling stations have been set up.
Mawlai constituency in East Khasi Hills district has the highest voters at 42,670, and Dalu in West Garo Hills the lowest 18,640 voters.
In all, 106 companies of central armed police forces have been deployed to ensure peaceful polls, he said.
In 2013, Meghalaya Assembly elections, the voters turnout was recorded at 87.97 per cent.