Over 77 per cent votes were polled in the bypolls to two Assembly seats in Meghalaya which passed off peacefully on Thursday, Chief Election Officer (CEO) for the state F R Kharkongor said.
The South Tura constituency, from where Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma is in the fray, witnessed 72.89 per cent of the 30,231 voters exercising their franchise.
In the Ranikore seat, 82.1 per cent of the 29,685 voters cast their votes, the CEO said.
The results of the bypolls will be declared on August 27.
Sangma, currently a member of Parliament from Tura, is contesting from the South Tura seat in West Garo Hills district on a ruling National People’s Party (NPP) ticket to enter the state Assembly.
The son of former chief minister Purno Sangma, Conrad Sangma became the chief minister on March 6 with the support of other regional parties and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The South Tura Assembly seat was vacated by Conrad Sangma’s sister Agatha Sangma for him. Agatha Sangma is likely to contest next year’s Lok Sabha polls.
Conrad Sangma, the NPP chief, is up against Charlotte W Momin of the Congress and Independent candidates John Leslee K Sangma, who is a former MLA, and Chris Kabul A Sangma. But, the chief minister seems to be comfortably placed, considering the fact that the constituency is his family stronghold.
The Ranikor seat fell vacant after five-time Congress MLA Martin K Danggo resigned to contest as an NPP candidate.
The bypoll for this seat assumes significance as the two regional allies of the NPP—the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the People’s Democratic Front (PDF) -- have fielded candidates against Danggo, triggering the speculation that whether things are fine within the ruling coalition.
Except for the fact that a victory would fulfil the chief minister’s constitutional requirement of becoming a member of the Assembly to continue on his chair, the outcome of the two seats would not have any impact on the stability of the government.
In the 60-member Meghalaya Assembly, the Conrad Sangma government enjoys the support of 34 MLAs -- 19 of the NPP, six of the UDP, four of the PDF, two each of the Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) and the BJP and an Independent.
But the results of the bypolls will be an important indicator as to which way the wind is blowing in the north-eastern state, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls next year.
Meghalaya has two Lok Sabha seats in Shillong and Tura. While the Ranikor Assembly segment falls under the Shillong Parliamentary constituency, the South Tura seat is part of the Tura Lok Sabha constituency.
The Congress’s Vincent Pala is the MP from Shillong presently, while Tura was won by Conrad Sangma in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Malfunctioning of EVMs was reported from seven booths—four in Ranikor and three in South Tura—the CEO said, adding that the defective machines were replaced and the polling continued smoothly.
The bypoll also saw a successful experiment by the election office of engaging runners in the Ranikor constituency to coordinate with the far-flung polling stations.
The 10 runners roped in for the purpose carried messages to and from the district election office and the far-flung polling stations four times at different hours as scheduled.
In the state Assembly polls held earlier in the year, Ranikor had recorded an 89.5-per cent voter turnout, while South Tura had recorded a poll percentage of 73.59.