Around 84.56 per cent voters exercised their franchise in the by-election to Shella constituency on Monday.
The battle of ballot that gave high hope to the electorates that roads and tourism would be the priority of anyone getting elected as member of the Meghalaya Assembly from among the six candidates.
Voting began at 7 am and ended at 5 pm without any hiccups, except rain in some areas that played spoilsport to the pace of voting, and a technical problem in one of the voting machine at Laitïam polling booth out of 58 polling booths.
People came out in large numbers to vote for the candidate of their choice from the six contestants including the lone woman candidate, Grace Mary Kharpuri, who stood as an independent.
“The polling was smooth and peaceful with a turnout of 84.56 per cent,” chief electoral officer, F R Kharkongor said.
In the last 2018 Assembly elections, Shella constituency recorded a turnout of 86.40 per cent.
In total, 25,191 electorates cast their vote out of 29,790 voters, which saw male voters outdo their opposite sex.
There were 12,631 men and 12,560 women who exercised their franchise.
Tynriang polling station registered the highest poll percentage at 92.92, while MeSEB-MCCL polling booth recorded the lowest poll percentage at 47.37.
The voting will decide who will be the new MLA of Shella and become the successor of late Donkupar Roy, who had represented the constituency for 31 years for seven consecutive terms since 1988.
The by-election to Shella constituency was necessitated following the demise of sitting MLA Donkupar Roy on July 28.
Donkupar’s son Balajied Synrem is the candidate of the UDP, besides Independent candidate Grace Mary Kharpuri, Congress candidate, Batyngshaiñ Ryngnga, People’s Democratic Front (PDF) Mosjo Wanswet, Independent candidate Komen Laitmon and BJP candidate Joshua Warjri.
When this reporter traveled down to Shella and talked to voters in various polling booths, they all shared the same views that they cast their vote with high hope that the new MLA of Shella will take up improvement and expansion of roads in the constituency and explore the tourism potential fully as the top priority.
Shella has a number of tourist destinations including Nongriat village which has the double-decker living root bridge.
During the day, many tourists were also seen going down to Nongriat.
“The new MLA should really focus on improving connectivity in the constituency and policy related to tourism so locals should reap the benefits from this industry especially employment,” said S Sohkhlet, who is working in a private firm, and came only to cast his vote.
Bad roads in Shella constituency and lack of overall development have been issues that dominated the campaign.
The office of the chief electoral officer had also launched the initiative of green election without using plastic materials in this bye election.
“No cash was seized, except the seizure of about 823.67 litres of liquor worth over Rs 1 lakh,” the CEO said.
The CEO said that one technology Skylo was used in polling stations where network was not available, and this technology has really helped in sharing of information.
There were mixed reactions on who from among the six contenders would get elected as the MLA of Shella.
While a number of voters predicted that Donkupar’s son, Balajied Synrem would retain the Shella seat for the UDP, there were youths and women who did not doubt that Independent nominee, Grace Mary Kharpuri will be the winner.
Some suggested that the bypoll was a triangular contest among Synrem, Kharpuri and PDF candidate, Mosjo Wanswet.
In some polling booths, majority of the voters said that Mosjo would win.
However who will be the new MLA of Shella will be known only on the counting day on Thursday.
Counting of votes will be held at Sohra from 8 am onwards.