Meghalaya by-polls: 45% voter turnout till 1 p.m. (Lead)

Shillong, Oct 30: An estimated 45 per cent of the 1,02,695 voters cast their votes till 1 p.m. in Saturday's by-elections to three Assembly seats in Meghalaya, Election Commission officials said.

Polling was conducted amid heavy security to prevent any untoward incident, they said.

On the instructions of the Election Commission, strict Covid-19 protocols, including use of sanitiser, infrared thermometer and social distancing, were followed by the voters and election officials.

A health worker has been posted as Covid Nodal Officer in each of the 168 polling stations.

Meghalaya Chief Electoral Officer F. R. Kharkongor told IANS that till 1 p.m. no untoward incident was reported from any of the three Assembly segments falling in two districts -- the East Khasi Hills and West Garo Hills.

Traditionally a matrilineal society, Meghalaya sees women voters outnumbering their male counterparts. As many as 1,02,695 voters, including 53,106 women voters, who outnumbered the men at 49,585, would decide the electoral fate of 13 candidates in the three Assembly seats.

The ruling National People's Party (NPP) headed by Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma and the main opposition Congress fielded candidates in all three seats. The BJP, which is a constituent of the NPP-dominated Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA), has fielded a candidate in Rajabala.

The United Democratic Party (UDP), an ally of the MDA, fielded a candidate in Mawphlang, leading to a possible division of votes among the ruling coalition partners.

The UDP is supporting the NPP candidate in other seats. The Hill State People's Democratic Party (HSPDP), another ally of the MDA, is supporting the UDP candidates in Mawphlang and Rajabala.

Five candidates each are contesting from Mawryngkneng and Rajabala, while three candidates are in a direct political fight in Mawphlang.

The by-polls to the three Assembly seats were necessitated following the death of three sitting MLAs -- David A. Nongrum (Congress, Mawryngkneng), Azad Zaman (UDP, Rajabala) and Syntar Klas Sunn (Independent, Mawphlang).

The counting of votes will take place on November 2.