Monday, Oct 03, 2022

Violence Mars First Phase Of Manipur Polls; 48.88 Pc Turnout Recorded Till 1 PM

Voting began at 7 AM in 1,721 polling stations in five districts amid tight security and strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols.

Voters wait outside a polling booth during the first phase of Manipur state elections in Imphal AP Photo/Yirmiyan Arthur

Incidents of violence marred elections to 38 assembly constituencies in the first phase of Manipur assembly polls on Monday even as 48.88 per cent of around 12.09 lakh voters exercised their franchise till 1 PM, election officials said. Kangpokpi district recorded the highest voters' turnout at 61.30 per cent. Imphal West district, which has the highest number of constituencies, registered 52.15 per cent polling, while Imphal East reported 46.11 per cent voting.

Voting began at 7 AM in 1,721 polling stations in five districts amid tight security and strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols. A total of 173 candidates, including 15 women, are in the fray, they said. Governor La Ganesan and Chief Minister N Biren Singh were among the early voters in their respective constituencies of Sagolband and Heingang. They urged people to exercise their franchise and maintain peace even as incidents of poll violence were reported from various parts of the state.

At least one person was injured in a clash between two political parties in Churachandpur district. An EVM was damaged, and it was later replaced. Alleged Congress workers vandalised a BJP polling booth in Kakwa area in Langthabal constituency in Imphal West district, while a vehicle of an NPP candidate was damaged by supporters of a rival group in Keirao assembly seat, although nobody was injured in the incident. Security forces resorted to firing blank rounds to control the crowd at New Keithelmanbi polling station in Kangpokpi district. The situation arose after Congress accused BJP of attempting to capture the booth.

Normalcy has been restored and voting has resumed after being disrupted for a few minutes. Nobody was injured in the incident, officials said. Police registered a case after an enraged mob engaged in "election offence and damages with common intention by using firearms" in Phunal Maring village in Imphal East district. Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh claimed that a youth went to exercise his franchise in Churachandpur district, only to find that his vote has already been cast. "Dennis Lallienzuol, a young resident of Churachandpur, went to the polling booth today to exercise his democratic right, only to find that his vote had already been cast! This not an isolated incident of malpractice," he tweeted.

As many as 6,884 polling personnel have been deployed in the polls. Central forces along with state security forces are conducting patrolling and area domination to boost confidence among the voters, the officials said. Voters initially waited patiently for their turn in chalk-marked circles by maintaining social distancing. However, as the sun rose over their heads, many sought shelter in the shade, while waiting for their turn to cast their votes. In some polling booths, including the one at Soibam Leikai in Imphal East district, first-time voters were felicitated by election officials.

Victor Th, a 20-year-old first-time voter, said "I hope my vote will make a difference in choosing an able representative of my Keishamthong constituency, one who can focus on development and address social issues." Prominent candidates in the fray in the first phase of the elections include the chief minister, Assembly Speaker Y Khemchand Singh, Deputy Chief Minister and NPP candidate Yumnam Joykumar and Manipur Congress president N Lokesh Singh. Of the 38 seats, 10 constituencies are in Imphal East, 13 in Imphal West, six each in Bishnupur and Churachandpur, and three in Kangpokpi district. Nine seats are reserved for Scheduled Tribes and one for Scheduled Castes. All-women personnel are conducting voting in 381 polling stations. PWD personnel are manning a polling station in Saikot assembly seat in Churachandpur.

The BJP has fielded candidates in all the 38 seats, followed by Congress with 35 contestants, NPP with 27, JD (U) with 28, Shiv Sena with seven, RPI (Athawale) with six, LJP (Ram Vilas) with three, and Kuki National Assembly and Kuki People's Alliance with two each. Eighteen Independents are also in the fray. Chief Electoral Officer Rajesh Agarwal has said that out of the total 173 candidates, 39 have criminal antecedents. Hours before the assembly polls got underway, Congress had on Sunday night expelled its candidate in Wangoi constituency, Salam Joy Singh, from the primary membership of the party with immediate effect on disciplinary grounds.

The BJP had formed the government in Manipur in 2017 with the support of the National People's Party (NPP), Naga People's Front (NPF), and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). However, the saffron party is contesting all the seats alone this time. The Congress has formed an alliance with CPI, CPI(M), Forward Bloc, RSP and Janata Dal (Secular). The grand old party had emerged as the single largest party winning 28 of the 60 seats in the 2017 state polls. The voting for the remaining 22 seats in the 60-member House will take place in the second phase on March 5 while the counting of votes will be held on March 10.

All polling stations have been sanitised and circles have been marked outside the polling booths to enable the voters to maintain social distancing while they stand in a queue. Wearing masks, using hand sanitiser and conducting thermal screening are among the other COVID protocols to be carried out at the polling booths. Polling will end at 4 PM and COVID-19 patients can vote between 3 PM and 4 PM.

With PTI Inputs