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Meghalaya bypoll records massive 90% turnout; Congress, NPP confident of victory

Both Congress and National People’s Party are confident of winning the Ampati assembly seat in Meghalaya. The seat was held by Congress leader Mukul Sangma for 25 years.

india Updated: May 28, 2018 22:00 IST
Hindustan Times, Shillong
Meghalaya bypoll,Congress,National People’s Party
Mukul Sangma of Congress won from Ampati by a margin of 8,104 votes over BJP candidate Bakul Ch Hajong in February 27. He vacated the seat to retain Songsak from where too he emerged victorious, and put up his daughter Miani D Shira to contest the seat.(HT Photo)

At the end of an arduous and strenuous exercise to elect the successor of Mukul Sangma who has represented Ampati assembly constituency in Meghalaya for 25 years, both the Congress and rival National People’s Party (NPP), which is heading a coalition government in the state, are confident of bagging the seat.

Sangma won from Ampati by a huge margin of 8,104 votes over the BJP candidate Bakul Ch Hajong in February 27 this year. He vacated the seat to retain Songsak from where too he emerged victorious, and put up his daughter Miani D Shira to keep the family flag flying.

The final voting percentage stood at 90.42% when polls ended at 5.45pm, informed Meghalaya chief electoral officer Frederick Roy Kharkongor. On February 27, the turnout was a little better at 90.70%.

A win for the Congress would mean it would emerge as the single largest party in the house of 60, with both the parties presently tied at 20 seats each. On the other hand, the NPP, buoyed by its recent success at wresting the Williamnagar seat from the Congress is confident of consolidating its tally.

There are three candidates in the fray, including Miani D Shira of the Congress, Clement G Momin of NPP and Subhankar Koch, an independent.

HT took a quick recce to solicit the thoughts of all three candidates who seemed confident of putting up a good show albeit acknowledging that there will only be one winner.

Miani exudes confidence that she will fare well and come out victorious to retain the seat. “I have full confidence in the people of Ampati and I am sure they will speak through their votes. We did not indulge in violence, intimidation or inducement unlike the opposition party,” she said.

Having contested unsuccessfully in the past against Sangma, NPP candidate Clement G Momin is buoyed by the aggressive campaigning executed by his party and the support of the ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance coalition partners.

The former school teacher says, “I am confident that people of Ampati will give the mandate for NPP. We have worked hard to create sensitisation on core issues and the agenda of our party. Chief minister Conrad Sangma himself reached out to the electorate in many areas and assured to create better infrastructure and development of Ampati. I am sure people of Ampati will express their right with wisdom.”

Meanwhile, Subhankar Koch, the independent candidate, is crystal clear that victory is far-fetched. Having decided to join the fray towards the fag end after the BJP denied ticket to Bakul Ch Hajong who unsuccessfully contested against Mukul Sangma, Koch, who belongs to the same tribe as Hajong, aims at not letting down his supporters who are mostly former BJP members. “A good performance will undoubtedly be a moral victory for my supporters,” he said.

Polling in Ampati was largely peaceful and without any untoward incident, barring a minor glitch of a VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) machine at Rongkamgre polling station in the morning which was immediately rectified.

Jelbongpara registered the highest number of voter turnout with 96.81%, while Morkona polling station recorded the lowest at 83.52% from among the total 39 polling stations. CEO Kharkongor said 24 polling stations recorded above 90% turnout.

Ampati has 28,673 registered electorate including 14,317 males and 14,382 female voters. Bandalkona has the highest number of voters with 10,104 votes while Bolsalgre with 383 voters is the smallest polling station. Nine polling stations were declared vulnerable and six critical by the Election Commission India.

The high-stakes battle, dubbed the most prestigious fight between the two most prominent political families in the state, witnessed a series of FIRs and counter FIRs till hours before polling, most of which came from the Congress party which charged rival NPP of coercion, inducement, intimidation and assault.

The NPP, on the other hand, had little to complaint except an FIR accusing Mukul Sangma of campaigning past the permissible period.

First Published: May 28, 2018 21:57 IST