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Campaigning in Meghalaya reaches feverish pitch

Campaigning for the April 20 polls to the two Lok Sabha seats in Meghalaya, has reached a feverish pitch after remaining a largely lacklustre affair.
PTI | By Press Trust of India, Shillong
PUBLISHED ON APR 18, 2004 04:46 PM IST

Campaigning for the April 20 polls to the two Lok Sabha seats in Meghalaya, which would end this evening, has reached a feverish pitch after remaining a largely lacklustre affair.

Three candidates - Congress' sitting MP P R Kyndiah, seeking re-election for the third time, BJP's Sanbor Swell Lyngdoh and S Lonia Marbaniang, an independent candidate and common nominee of the four regional parties alliance, are in fray for Shillong seat.

The constituency is spread over four districts of the Khasi and Jaintia Hill areas covering 36 assembly segments.

Tura constituency, comprising three districts of Garo Hills with 24 assembly seats, is poised for a straight fight between Nationalist Trinamool Congress leader Purno A Sangma who is in the fray for the eighth time and Congress' Mukul Sangma, the state's public works and information technology minister.

The campaigning for Shillong seat was devoid of any colour with the candidates concentrating on rural areas leaving the state capital almost unattended.

Shillongites seldom experienced door-to-door campaign or found graffitis, posters, banners or cut-outs of the contestants. However, the electioneering scene gained momentum in the last couple of days.

Except BJP, who introduced two of its actor-turned-politicians - Mukesh Khanna and Suresh Oberoi - no national political leaders came here for canvassing, which was taken care of by the local leaders themselves.

The Tura seat generated some heat following complaint and counter-complaint by the contesting parties on election posters alleging breach of the model code of conduct by the other.

The coming together of four regional parties and formation of an alliance to fight against Congress, its ruling partner, in the Shillong seat was itself an interesting political development.

The four parties are part of the ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance led by Congress in the state and it remains to be seen how it convinces the voters in its tirade against the major ally of the government.

BJP, which fielded former Lok Sabha deputy speaker G G Swell's son for the Shillong seat, tried to strike an emotional chord by printing both the father and son's pictures in its posters along with a quotation of the senior Swell.

The party, which did not field any candidate in Tura, decided to support Sangma who is facing the electorate under a different banner after the Election Commission took away his erstwhile NCP flag and symbol.

The resignation of minister of state, Heltone N Marak from the D D Lapang government just a few days before the elections citing 'step-motherly' attitude of the Congress-led coalition regime towards Garo Hills made the election scenario interesting.

Marak, who represented the United Democratic Party in the coalition from the Garo Hills region, later decided to support Sangma in his Tura seat.

AICC President Sonia Gandhi failed to make it to Tura for electioneering due to bad weather. Nagaland Chief Minister N Rio did it for Sangma in the area and was followed by senior Congress leader Salman Khursheed who campaigned for his party nominee.

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