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Political stability main poll issue in Meghalaya
February 19, 2003 17:35 IST
In a week from today on February 26 Meghalaya will vote to elect members to its assembly, and one hope that binds almost all political parties is that the election this time around brings about political stability.
That is understandable given the fact that the state witnessed change of guard six times in the last five years and each party tasted power during that period, as political alignments changed at regular intervals.
Each of the parties, which shared the power cake in the last five years, promises voters a stable government.
Each party is fighting for a hold on the 60-member assembly on its own, but may position itself for alliances in a post-poll scenario depending on the results.
The pace of the campaign has gone up a couple of notched with national leaders like Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Union Ministers I D Swami, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Bijoya Chakravorty of BJP and Nationalist Congress Party leader Purno A Sangma criss-crossing the state.
Altogether 333 candidates belonging to 13 political parties, and including 58 independents are in fray, 25 more than the previous polls in 1998.
Though Meghalaya is a matriarchal society, only 15 women candidates are in fray.
Nongkrem, Lyngkyrdem and Rongram constituencies have the maximum number of 11 candidates each.
Two former chief ministers, S C Marak (Congress) and E K Mawlong (United Democratic Party) are facing straight contests in Resubelpara and Umroi constituencies respectively.
Poll watchers predict an easy contest for Mawlong, as he is seen as having nurtured his constituency loyally. By contrast, Marak's victory may not be easy as Sangma has been vigorously campaigning against him.
Moreover, an anti-Congress wind is blowing in the Garo Hills, the party's bastion, poll watchers said.
A tough fight also awaits Deputy Chief Minister D Dethwelson Lapang (Congress) whose his main rival is Constantine Lyngdoh (UDP), who had defeated him by a margin of 1095 votes the in 1993 election. But in 1998 Lapang won the seat with a margin of 2504 defeating Lyngdoh, who contested on a UDP ticket.
It will be an acid test to the former finance minister A H Scott Lyngdoh and Paul Lyngdoh, the chief of Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement at Jaiaw constituency.
For Paul Lyngdoh, who was the president of Khasi Students Union, it is a maiden venture into state politics.
Prominent among the women candidates are Maysalin War, community and rural development minister, who is contesting from Mawthengkut on Meghalaya Democratic Party ticket, while Debora C Mark, minister of state for mining and geology, is contesting from Rongrenggiri on Congress ticket.
There are 127940 electorate in the state of which 644913 are male and 634827 are female.
Meghalaya Director General of Police L Sailo said he apprehended violence at some police stations as United Democratic Peoples Solidarity and Karbi National Volunteers, two Karbi based in Assam, have threatened to disrupt the poll process in the Jantia and Ri-bhoi districts.
He said militant outfits might trigger violence in the Garo Hills also. In Garo Hills, the main threat might be from the United Liberation Front of Asom and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland.
The state election department had asked the Election Commission for 50 companies of paramilitary forces against which only 15 companies were sanctioned.
The Centre has also decided to give an additional police force of the Indian Reserve Battalion, official sources said.
Chief Election Commissioner J M Lyngdoh during his visit on January 28 advised the state to remain on high alert against communal campaigning.
He also said most of the constituencies where political violence has been anticipated were in West Khasi Hills and East Khasi hills and one constituency in the Jaintia Hills districts.
A total of 1569 polling booths would be set up of which 600 have been identified as sensitive. A number of the polling booths are located close to elephant-infested areas in Garo Hills and Ri-bhoi districts.
More reports from Meghalaya