Meghalaya vote count begins

Last Updated: Thu, Feb 28, 2013 03:30 hrs

Shillong, Feb 28 (IANS) The ruling Congress and non-Congress parties are confident of winning as officials started counting of votes cast in the Feb 23 elections in Meghalaya Thursday.

Of the 15,02,509 voters, 88.06 percent exercised their franchise Saturday (Feb 23) to elect their representatives to the 60-member house of this matrilineal state, bordering Bangladesh.

The voter turnout was 1.02 percent lesser than the assembly elections in 2008, when 89.04 percent of voters cast their votes.

In the 2008 assembly elections, the Congress emerged as the single party with 25 seats running short of 6 seats to get a clear majority.

The United Democratic Party (UDP) bagged 11 seats, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) got 14, the Hill State People's Democratic Party 2, the BJP and Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement 1 each and five Independents.

"We are close to half-way mark and we are hoping to get more," Chief Minister Mukul Sangma told IANS on telephone from Tura in West Garo Hills.

The Congress fielded candidates in all 60 constituencies while the United Democratic Party (UDP) contested 50 seats.

The Purno Sangma-led Nationalist People's Party (NPP) had 32 candidates, and the NCP 21.

The UDP is confident of ousting the Congress.

"We will cross 15 seats and if luck favours we might even cross 20," UDP leader Bindo M. Lanong said.

Lanong said UDP was in touch with "like-minded parties" for post-poll alliances.

Predicting a Congress failure, Purno Sangma's son Conrad, leader of the opposition in the assembly, claimed that the chief minister would bite the dust.

"We will maintain our seats in the assembly and we are also hopeful that we might increase our tally as we have worked very hard to defeat the money power of the Congress," Conrad told IANS.

The 2013 polls were held in newly formed constituencies; 18 members of the assembly thus saw themselves pitted against other legislators.

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