Imphal: Colourfully decked-up men and women came out in huge numbers to mark their democratic choice, as over 83 per cent votes were cast amidst tight security in the second and final phase of the Manipur Assembly polls on Wednesday.
Polling was generally peaceful notwithstanding a few stray incidents in the 22 constituencies spread over six districts – Thoubal, Ukhrul, Chandel, Tamenglong, Kamjomg 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 83 per cent when polling concluded at 3 p.m.,” the Election Commission said. However, the final figure is likely to increase as vote percentage from remote polling stations are still awaited.
The voter turnout was 86.5 in the first phase covering 38 constituencies on March 4. 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 stations 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 killed a polling official and injured two Assam Rifles troopers 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 The repoll will take place on March 10.
The votes for the 60-seat assembly will be counted on March 11.