Over three-fourth of electorate vote in Manipur, polling peaceful

Imphal, March 8 (IANS) Colourfully decked-up men and women came out in huge numbers to mark their democratic choice, as over 76 per cent votes were cast in the first seven hours of polling for the second and final phase of the Manipur Assembly elections on Wednesday.

Polling was generally peaceful notwithstanding a few stray incidents in the 22 constituencies spread over five districts – Thoubal, Ukhrul, Chandel, Tamenglong and Senapati, officials said.

Even before voting centres opened at 7 a.m., people assembled before booths, and patiently stood for their turn – despite long queues at many places.

“The polling percentage was over 76 by 2 p.m.,” the Election Commission said.

Two tribal militants entered the Mantri Pantha polling station in Chandel district and damaged EVMs. They were overpowered by women voters and handed over to the authority. The K. Thel polling station in the same district was vandalised by some miscreants.

There were clashes between the Communist Party of India and the Congress workers in Wangjing Tentha in Thoubal district. Police had to resort to firing in the air to bring the situation under control.

In Ukhrul district, polling was stalled for some time in a booth following protest by a few voters. However polling officials managed to restore peace.

Polling in some polling station in Tamenglong district started several hours behind schedule as the EVMs developed technical defects.

Security had been beefed up after the twin bomb blasts on Tuesday, that injured a polling official and an Assam Rifles trooper near the India-Myarnmar border in Kamjong district. No untoward incident has been reported from the district so far.

Polling was also being held peacefully at the border town of Moreh, officials said.

An electorate of over 7.59 lakh is eligible to choose its nominees from among 98 candidates — four of them women — in 1,151 polling stations.

All eyes are on Thoubal, where Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh is seeking re-election as a Congress candidate in a five-cornered contest that also features human rights activist and People’s Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRAJA) nominee Irom Sharmila and Bharatiya Janata Party’s Leitanthem Basanta Singh.

Sharmila, who in 2016 ended a 16-year-long fast demanding the revocation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, has now entered politics promising to repeal the legislation through constitutional means.

Another star constituency is Nungba, from where Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam of Congress is in the race.

Ibobi said the polls were a kind of referendum on the burning issues.

“I do not want to give any premature comment now. We should wait for the results. But the people must have voted after taking all issues into consideration,” he said.

Meanwhile, state Chief Electoral Officer V.K. Dewangan has ordered repoll in 34 polling stations which went to the hustings in the first phase on March 4. The repoll will take place on March 10.

Elections were held for 38 constituencies of the 60-seat Manipur assembly in phase one.