Shillong/Kohima: Meghalaya's electorate Saturday defied a shutdown call to enthusiastically turn up in large numbers at polling booths in the assembly elections while Nagaland too saw brisk ballotting. Assembly by-polls were also held for one constituency in Punjab and three in West Bengal.
Over half of the voters had cast their ballots till afternoon for the Meghalaya and Nagaland assembly elections, with both states witnessing long queues outside polling stations. Polling was postponed in one assembly constituency in Nagaland following a candidate's death.
Voting was peaceful in both the states.
In Punjab, polling was held for the Moga assembly by-election while in West Bengal, by-elections were being held for three assembly constituencies -- Nalhati in Birbhum district, Rejinagar in Murshidabad district and English Bazar in Malda district.
In Meghalaya, more than half of the electorate had exercised their franchise for the 60-member assembly, though it was yet to pick up in the West Garo Hills region, said an official.
The Border Security Force has stepped up patrolling along the India-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya following the shutdown called by the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC).
The HNLC, which runs hit-and-run operations from its hideout in Bangladesh, has been demanding a sovereign Khasi homeland in eastern Meghalaya.
Over 1.5 million voters -- about half the population of Meghalaya -- are eligible to decide the fate of 345 candidates, including 25 women and 122 independents.
Polling began at 7 a.m. and would be held till 4 p.m.
Voting is taking place at 2,485 polling booths, out of which 842 have been termed hyper-sensitive.
In the state, the Congress has fielded candidates in all constituencies followed by the United Democratic Party (UDP) in 50 seats.
The Purno Sangma-led Nationalist People's Party has 32 candidates while the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) will contest in 21 seats. The Hill State People's Democratic Party has fielded 17 candidates.
The polls are being held in newly-formed constituencies where 16 outgoing legislators are pitted against one another.
Nagaland too witnessed half of its electorate voting by early afternoon to pick a 60-member assembly.
The polling for the Tuensang Sadar I assembly constituency in Nagaland was postponed after the death of Congress candidate and sitting MLA P. Chuba Chang at a hospital in Kohima Friday.
Chang, 49, was ailing and died at a hospital in Kohima Friday.
Nagaland Joint Chief Electoral Officer N Moa Aier said Saturday that they have written to the Election Commission of India, which is likely to announce a fresh date for holding the polls in the constituency.
The hilly state has 1,193,438 electorates, including 589,505 women.
Election officials are using 2,600 electronic voting machines to conduct the polls in 2,023 polling stations.
A total of 188 candidates, including two women, are in the fray with 49 outgoing legislators seeking re-election.
The ruling Naga People's Front (NPF) has fielded candidates in all 60 seats while opposition Congress has put up candidates in 57 assembly constituencies.
One third of the 60 constituencies will witness straight fights between the NPF and Congress.
According to election officials, over 26,000 security personnel, including 225 companies of central paramilitary forces and police, have been deployed for the polls in Nagaland.