All eyes on Sharmila-Ibobi clash as Manipur votes in second round

Imphal March 7 (IANS) All eyes will be on Thoubal, where Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh faces a five-cornered contest that also features human rights activist Irom Sharmila, as 22 constituencies will vote in the second and final phase of the Manipur assembly polls on Wednesday.

Sharmila, who ended a 16-year-long fast to press her demand for the revocation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, last year, has now entered politics promising to repeal the legislation through constitutional means.

Though her People’s Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRAJA) party is contesting only three of the 60 seats in the assembly polls, the ‘iron lady’ has claimed she was aiming to become the Chief Minister.

Sharmila has been going door to door to canvas for votes, but her opponents have claimed that it would be a Herculean task for the rights activist to get to the assembly from Thoubal, where many consider the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Leitanthem Basanta Singh as the main rival to Ibobi.

The Chief Minister won by over 10,000 votes in the previous polls, and is sparing no effort to woo the voters this time around.

Ibobi has been the chief minister for 15 long years heading a Congress government, but the BJP seems to have emerged the main challenger to the ruling party in the ongoing elections. Carrying out a high-pitched campaign, the party roped in Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a host of other Union Ministers for electioneering.

The 22 seats on the morrow cover the district of Thoubal and the hill districts of Ukhrul, Chandel, Tamenglong and Senapati.

The total number of electors is 7,59,369, who would exercise their rights at 1,151 polling stations to choose their nominees from among 98 candidates. Four of these are women.

“Helicopters were used to airlift polling officials, security personnel for the hard-to-access polling stations in the hill areas,” said Chief Electoral Officer Vivek Kumar Dewangan.

As per the Election Commission diktat, during Wednesday’s elections, the polling stations would be exclusively manned by the central paramilitary personnel.

–IANS

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