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By-polls to three vacant seats Meghalaya Assembly to be held under strict COVID-19 protocols

Sunn had supported the ruling National People’s Party-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government.

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Shillong: The by-elections to three vacant seats in the Meghalaya Assembly will be conducted on October 30 with strict adherence to COVID-19 safety guidelines.

The counting of votes will be held on November 2, election officials said.

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The by-polls are necessitated following the demise of two Opposition Congress legislators, David Nongrum from Mawrynkneng Assembly constituency and Dr Azad Zaman from Rajabala Assembly constituency and Independent legislator, Syntar Klas Sunn from Mawphlang Assembly constituency.

Sunn had supported the ruling National People’s Party-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government.

The last date of filing nomination is October 8, while October 11 has been fixed as the date of scrutiny of nomination papers. The last date of withdrawal of candidature has been fixed on October 13, Chief Electoral Officer Frederick Roy Kharkongor said.

The Commission has decided to use EVMs and VVPATs in the bye-elections in all the polling stations. “Adequate numbers of EVMs and VVPATs have been made available and all steps have been taken to ensure that the polls are conducted smoothly with the help of these machines,” the election official said

With the announcement of the by-poll dates, the Model code of conduct has come into force with immediate effect in the districts in which the whole or any part of the Assembly constituency going for election is included.

The by-elections were deferred in view of the COVID-19 pandemic and the by-elections will be held in adherence to COVID-19 protocol.

“A new rule has been introduced according to which any candidate, polling agent or driver who comes in contact with the election or public officials must be doubly vaccinated against COVID-19,” Kharkongor informed.

“During Pre and post nomination procession, public meetings are prohibited and only three vehicles are permitted within a periphery of 100 meters of the Returning Officer’s office. No procession for nomination shall be permitted,” he said.

The Election Commission has also restricted public meetings to 30 per cent of the allowed capacity or 200 persons in case of indoor meetings, whichever is less and has asked candidates to maintain a register to count the number of people attending the meeting.

In the case of outdoor meetings, it has been restricted to 50 per cent of the ground capacity.

“With 50 per cent of capacity (as per COVID-19 guidelines) or 1000 in the case of Star Campaigners and 50 per cent of the capacity or 500 in all other cases. In either case, the allowed number is whichever is less. The entire area will be cordoned off and will be guarded by the police. The count of people entering the ground will be monitored,” the election official said.

Moreover, the Election Commission has restricted the number of Star Campaigners to 20 for the bye-elections for National /State recognized parties and 10 for un-recognized registered parties in the wake of the pandemic.

“No roadshow shall be allowed and no motor/bike/cycle rallies will be allowed,” Kharkongor said, adding that the silence period has been increased to 72 hours before the end of the by-elections.

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