Guwahati: Registered voters living in villages along the disputed border with Assam and Meghalaya would be allowed to franchise their rights in the upcoming Meghalaya elections, chief election commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar said on Friday.
The announcement came after Kumar led a team from the Election Commission of India (ECI) to Meghalaya to inspect the poll preparations in the neighbouring state that concluded on Friday.
He said, “Eligible voters 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. There is nothing to worry.”
The ECI team has reviewed the law and order situation and discussed it with district officials from both sides and have had detailed meetings.
At least 16 central agencies were instructed to work in a coordinated manner in expenditure-sensitive constituencies.
The ECI has directed that 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 and fair.
In Meghalaya, around 21 lakh voters in the state were 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. At least 120 polling booths will be managed by women’s teams.
There were some 81,443 new voters registered for the ensuing elections in Meghalaya. Elections to the 60-member assembly in Meghalaya were due this year.
The matter of people living in disputed areas along the borders of the two states came after the ongoing talks between Assam and Meghalaya got interrupted due to violence that broke out in Mukroh area last year in which six people including five tribal villagers from Meghalaya and an Assam forest guard, were killed 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 Mukroh area was one of them.
In March last year, the two states signed a memorandum of understanding 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, of 1971, which demarcated the border between the two states.