86% vote in Meghalaya re-poll, voting again at 11 Nagaland booths

March 01, 2018 10:12 pm | Updated 10:12 pm IST - GUWAHATI

People wait in long queues to vote at Nongpoh in Meghalaya’s Ri-Bhoi district on February 27, 2018.

People wait in long queues to vote at Nongpoh in Meghalaya’s Ri-Bhoi district on February 27, 2018.

Re-polling at a booth in Meghalaya’s Raliang Assembly constituency on Thursday recorded a turnout of 86%. Voting for 59 of the State’s 60 constituencies, held on February 27, had a turnout of 84.86%.

The office of Meghalaya’s Chief Electoral Officer said mismatch in the voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) necessitated the re-polling in the Kyndongtuber booth under the Raliang constituency in West Jaintia Hills district.

“The VVPAT at the booth was replaced in the afternoon on the day of voting, but the machine taken as a replacement from the adjoining Mowkaiaw constituency was giving different prints. Re-polling was recommended as the VVPAT helped us identify the human error,” CEO Frederick Roy Kharkongor said.

Out of 628 voters under the Kyndongtuber booth, 544 exercised their franchise, officials said.

Hours before Meghalaya was through with re-polling at the lone booth, the Election Commission ordered re-poll in 11 booths of eight Assembly constituencies in Nagaland on Friday. These constituencies are Peren, Kohima Town, Chizami, Phek, Meluri, Tizit, Longkhim-Chare and Pungro-Kiphire.

A letter by EC Secretary Arvind Anand to Nagaland CEO Abhijeet Sinha did not specify the reason for re-polling, but damage of EVMs is said to be the primary reason. In Tizit, a person was injured after miscreants lobbed a bottle grenade before polling began on February 27.

Peren is the home constituency of Nagaland Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang.

“The voting tomorrow (Friday) at the 11 booths will be done between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m.,” Mr. Sinha said.

Unlike Meghalaya, polling in Nagaland last month was marked by violence. In one of the incidents, a person was killed and two others injured when supporters of the ruling Naga People’s Front and BJP-Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party alliance clashed in Akuluto seat.

Counting of votes in Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura, which voted on February 18, is scheduled on Saturday.

Devil scare

Officials in Meghalaya said the fear of the Devil, instilled by a group of preachers, kept many voters in Mawkyrwat and Ranikor constituencies indoors. Both seats are in South West Khasi Hills district.

Local political leaders said a majority of voters in Mawsep, Mawthawpdah, Photjuad War, Mawrap and Manad villages under Mawkyrwat were afraid to cast their votes. They attributed it to the pre-poll campaign by a group of Gospel preachers who interpreted Aadhaar, EPIC and the voting machine as carrying the sign of the Devil.

Such was the fear that those who turned up pressed the EVM buttons with a stick. A few did so without looking at the voting machines, polling officials said.

A similar situation arose in Ngunraw and Rangjadong villages under Ranikor constituency.

The police are on the lookout of one Phawa, the leader of the group of preachers, who went around from village to village.

The Khasi-Jaintia Presbyterian Synod said it had tried to check superstition among gullible villagers. “We had circulated a pamphlet to all the Presbyterian churches that Aadhaar had no connection with the revelation (666, number of the beast) in the Bible,” its statement said.

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