SHILLONG: Four people, including Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) candidate Jonathone Nengminza Sangma, were killed while three others injured in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast in poll-bound Meghalaya's East Garo Hills district on Sunday, an official said.
The incident took place around 7.30 p.m. at Sawilgre village, about 14 km from Samanda Block, when the candidate was returning to Williamnagar, the district headquarters of East Garo Hills from poll campaigning.
"Four bodies were found on the spot, including that of NCP candidate Jonathone Sangma. The other three dead bodies are yet to be identified," District Magistrate Ramkumar S told IANS.
The injured have been rushed to the Williamnagar Civil hospital.
"The rescue team is still at the blast site to rescue the injured persons," Ramkumar said.
Chief Minister Mukul Sangma tweeted: "Deeply saddened to hear about the unexpected loss of Jonathone N Sangma. My heartfelt condolences to his near and dear ones. The blood of innocents spilled by the enemies of the state will not disturb the peace in Meghalaya."
"This desperate act will not be tolerated. The perpetrators of the crime will be apprehended expeditiously and brought to book," the Chief Minister added.
Sangma, 43, was contesting the Assembly election from Williamnagar which he had unsuccessfully contested as an Independent candidate in 2013. He lost the elections to the incumbent Education Minister and senior Congress leader Deborah C. Marak.
The incident was preceded by posters appearing in certain areas of Williamnagar constituency saying anyone who votes for the NCP candidate Jonathone Sangma would get bullets from "AK-17 and pistol".
Incidentally, Sangma had filed a case in 2013 against Deborah, alleging that she had sought the help of terrorist outfit Garo National Liberation Army to intimidate people to seek votes.
Deborah had won the seat in 2013 securing 8,402 votes while Sangma had garnered 5,525 votes.
A year later, Meghalaya Police filed a chargesheet against Deborah Marak and her aide Tennydard Marak for "hatching a criminal conspiracy" with the GNLA to garner votes in the February 2013 Assembly election.
National People's Party President Conrad K Sangma while offering expressing grief tweeted: "My heart goes out to the family of Jonathone Sangma, my dear friend who lost his life in a militant attack. May his soul rest in peace. Sad very unfortunate."
Voicing "serious concern" on the blast, the Meghalaya Bharatiya Janata Party tweeted: "Our thoughts are with the near and dear ones of NCP candidate Shri Jonathan N Sangma and those travelling with him. The news that he was shot dead...comes as a serious concern on the eve of elections."
Strongly condemning the attack, the A'chik Youth Council has demanded CBI enquiry to find out political nexus which lead to such criminal acts.
"Since Meghalaya came to existence, no record has been there about the candidates who have been attacked or killed for political mileage. He (Sangma) had a right to contest (election) and voters would decide his fate," the Council stated.