The counting of votes in the Meghalaya Assembly elections will be held on Thursday amid tight security arrangements.
“All necessary arrangements have been made with respect to tomorrow. We have 13 counting centres across the state, 12 in all district headquarters, and one in Sohra Sub Division. 22 Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) companies have been retained for purposes of ensuring 24×7 safeguard protocols in respect of the strong rooms containing the polled Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) of 3,419 polling stations in the 59 poll-going Assembly constituencies and will stay on till April 4 for any post-poll contingencies or emergencies,” said Meghalaya Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) FR Kharkongor.
The Meghalaya CEO said there will be three-tiered security arrangements, with CAPF guarding the innermost layer and state-armed police keeping vigil over the second and third layers.
The counting centres are all placed under CCTV and webcast surveillance during the entire period. There will be a total of 383 rounds of counting, with a maximum of nine rounds for the biggest assembly constituency, Mawlai in East Khasi Hills District, and four rounds for smaller ACs like Dalu in West Garo Hills District, according to the CEO.
According to the Election Commission, the counting in all 13 centres will commence at 8 a.m. on Thursday. The counting will initially begin with a postal ballot count for the first 30 minutes, followed by the counting of polled votes in the EVM Control Units. The CEO, accompanied by the District Electoral Officer (DEO) and Superintendent of Police, has already personally inspected the counting arrangements at the East Khasi Hills Counting Centre at Polo Grounds, Shillong, which has the state’s maximum number of 14 counting halls, one for each assembly constituency.
The West Garo Hills District Counting Centre caters to 11 assembly constituencies and is the second-largest counting centre in the state. The Election Commission has deployed 27 counting observers, and over 500 micro observers will also assist the counting observers at each table. Each table will have a counting observer assisted by four counting assistants.
In seven polling stations, there were cases of non-deletion of mock poll data. These include a polling station in East Jaintia Hills, Khliehriat AC, one in West Khasi Hills, Rambhai AC, two in East Garo hills, Songsak AC, two in South West Garo Hills, Salmanpara ACs and one in Mylliem AC. In the above polling stations, DEOs and ROs (returning officers) have been directed to strictly follow Election Commission protocols on counting.
Also, post-counting of EVMs, five polling stations will be selected at random through a draw of lots, and manual counting of five randomly selected EVMs will be undertaken as per ECI protocols. Additionally, concerned DEOs have issued necessary orders pertaining to traffic arrangements and victory processions post-counting in respect of their respective districts.
Ahead of the counting of votes for the Meghalaya assembly polls, Meghalaya Chief Minister and National People’s Party (NPP) chief Conrad Sangma met Assam Chief Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma in Guwahati on Tuesday night. Notably, Sarma is the convenor of the North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA). As per the report, it has been said that both Chief Ministers took part in a crucial meeting in a hotel in Guwahati, and the meeting lasted for half an hour. Following the meeting, the Meghalaya Chief Minister returned to Tura in the West Garo Hills.
Earlier on Tuesday, Meghalaya’s CM hinted at forming a post-poll alliance to form the government. The exit polls published by various media groups predicted that the northeastern state would have a hung house, with Sangma’s NPP emerging as the single-largest party. Following this, Conrad Sangma said that he would keep all options open to form a stable government.
“We will keep all our options open to form a stable government. We are happy to see the trend is in line as we expected to get more seats than we received last time,” said Sangma. Meghalaya recorded a voting percentage of over 76 percent on Monday. Polling was held at 3,419 polling stations across 59 Assembly constituencies in the state.
Of the 60 Assembly constituencies in Meghalaya, 36 fall in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills regions, while 24 are in the Garo Hills region. However, polling for the Sohiong Assembly constituency was postponed following the demise of the state’s former Home Minister and United Democratic Party (UDP) candidate from the seat, HDR Lyngdoh.