SHILLONG: Registered voters living in villages along the disputed border with Assam can participate in the upcoming assembly elections in Meghalaya, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar said on Friday. Kumar led an Election Commission of India (ECI) team in a two-day review of poll preparedness in Meghalaya. The visit concluded during the day.
“People living in villages along the disputed border can participate in the elections despite what has happened. Both sides have held joint meetings and discussions are taking place at the senior level as well. We are alive to the situation and there is nothing to worry,” Kumar said.
“There is no problem. We have reviewed the situation at our end and district officials from both sides have had detailed meetings,” he said.
The CEC said the commission has instructed 16 central agencies to work in a coordinated manner in expenditure-sensitive constituencies.
“Agencies were asked to follow standard operating procedures in doing proper checks of planes and helicopters coming to the state to avoid any political party or candidate trying to induce voters with cash,” he said.
Political parties have to publish at least thrice in local newspapers and TV channels publicising cases pending against candidates with a criminal background and also explain why such people were nominated.
Kumar said all steps will be taken to ensure that the elections are free, fair and participative.
He said 21 lakh voters in the state are eligible to exercise their franchise in 55 reserved seats for Scheduled Tribes and five unreserved constituencies.
There would be a total of 3,482 polling stations with an average of 620 voters in each, the official said, adding 120 booths will be managed by women teams.
A total of 81,443 electors will be eligible to cast their votes for the first time.
At least six people, including five tribal villagers from Meghalaya and an Assam forest guard, were killed in a violent clash along the disputed border in November last year.
Assam and Meghalaya have a long-standing dispute in 12 areas along the 884.9-km-long inter-state border, and the location where the violence took place is one of those.
The two states had signed a memorandum of understanding in March last year towards ending the dispute in six of the areas.
Meghalaya was carved out of Assam in 1972 and had since then challenged the Assam Reorganisation Act, 1971, which demarcated the border between the two states. Elections to the 60-member assembly in Meghalaya are due this year.