With all exit polls favouring it, the ruling National People’s Party (NPP) is eyeing for a second straight term in Meghalaya, while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is optimistic to make impressive gains as the stage is set for counting of votes on March 2 for the assembly elections.
Exit polls by various channels had predicted a hung house in Meghalaya. Meghalaya has a 60-member assembly, with a magic figure being 31.
The exit polls have put the NPP ahead of five main political parties — Congress party, Trinamool Congress (TMC), BJP and UDP — with 21-26 seats in the 60-member state assembly.
“We at the NPP are confident of winning a targeted 25 seats and we are hopeful to win in another 12 seats in which we are giving a tough fight to other parties. Therefore, we are hoping to cross the magical number 31 in the 60-member house assembly,” NPP Meghalaya president Wanwei Roy Kharlukhi said.
When asked about the possibility of a post-poll alliance in case if the NPP falls short of an absolute majority, the lone Rajya Sabha member, said: “Let us see when the election result are declared tomorrow and decide accordingly.”
Voicing confidence that BJP will make impressive gains in the just concluded polls, state BJP president, Ernest Mawrie said: “After analysing all reports from all the 60 assembly constituencies we are confident to win in at least 12 seats. We expect to get a vote share of 20-25 per cent share of the total vote.”
“We have not decided about the post-poll alliance, but we are open to work with likeminded parties to provide a stable and corruption-free government,” Mawrie said when asked about the possibility of a post-poll alliance with the NPP and other political parties.
In the 2018 assembly elections, the BJP won just two out of 60 seats and garnered a 9.5 per cent vote share.
On the other hand, the United Democratic Party (UDP), a key ally in the outgoing Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government, maintained that the poll results would decide the formation of the new government.
“We are having a fighting chance in wining 21 seats and in six more seats we are having a keen contest. Let us see the outcome of the poll result tomorrow and the the numbers would dictate the formation of the new coalition partners in the next government,” veteran UDP leader, Allantry Franklin Dkhar.
Rejecting the exit polls predictions, Trinamool Congress (TMC) president, Charles Pyngrope observed a hung assembly in the offing in Meghalaya, even as he claimed that TMC is expected in winning 21 seats.
“We are expecting to win in 21 seats and we will form a new government with likeminded parties – UDP, PDF (People’s Democratic Front), HSPDP (Hill State People’s Democratic Party) and the Congress,” Pyngrope said.
The TMC did not contest the 2018 Meghalaya assembly polls but became the principal opposition party after 12 Congress legislators led by former chief minister Mukul Sangma defected to the Bengal-based party in November 2021.
The Congress party, which ruled Meghalaya for decades, went to the polls with most of its party legislators parting ways with the grand-old party and contesting the just concluded assembly elections as nominees of either the TMC or the NPP and the UDP.
“I cannot tell you now exactly in how many seats, but let us wait tomorrow and we will talk about Congress role in forming the new government,” state Congress party president Vincent Pala said.
The Congress party has fielded its candidates in all 60 assembly seats with 47 of them are fresh blood and below the age of 45 and 10 of them being women candidates.
Meanwhile, chief electoral officer Frederick Roy Kharkongor informed that 13 counting centres for the counting of votes for the Meghalaya assembly elections.
He said the counting of votes will start at 8 am in all 12 district headquarters and one in Sohra civil sub-division.
The Election Commission has deployed 27 counting observers and about 549 micro-observers.
A total of 369 candidates, including 36 women, are contesting the elections. In the 2018 assembly polls, 329 candidates, including 32 women, had fought the elections.
Meghalaya registered a voter turnout of 85.17 per cent for the assembly elections that were held on February 27.
The voter turnout percentage is a marginal drop from the 2018 assembly elections which was 86.9 per cent.