Imphal: Manipur recorded 40 percent polling till noon Saturday as voting continued at a brisk pace with people turning out in huge numbers to elect a 60-member assembly despite a string of bomb blasts in the past one week.

Voting remained peaceful, barring one incident of violence in Tipaimukh constituency where some irate electors damaged an electronic voting machine at one polling booth. This led security personnel to open fire, but no one was injured.

The State election office said polling began at 7 a.m. and will be held till 3 p.m. Voting is taking place amid tight security at 2,357 polling booths, of which 875 have been termed hyper-sensitive.

Chief electoral officer P.C. Lawmkunga told IANS: “We have recorded 40 percent polling till noon. The voter turnout remained good across the state, and we hope the voting will pick up as the day passes.”

“All precautions have been taken to ensure free and fair polls,” the officer said, adding that video cameras have been placed in all  polling stations to prevent proxy voting or any kind of manipulation.

Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh and his legislator wife Landhoni Devi cast their votes around 7.30 a.m. at the polling booth in Thoubal Aphokpam Lower Primary School in Khangabok constituency. Landhoni Devi is the sitting legislator from Khangabok.

“I am expecting that the Congress party would secure around 45 seats. But 35 is the minimum number we are winning,” the chief minister told IANS after casting his vote.

The two-time chief minister of the state said over 80 percent voting is expected across the state.

“People would come out despite the militants’ threat as it is a democratic exercise that comes after every five years and no one wants to miss it,” he said.

In addition to the state’s police forces, the state election authority is using 350 companies of central paramilitary forces for smooth conduct of the election.

A day ahead of the polls, suspected militants triggered a blast in the Manipur capital at Thangmeiban Iikamdewan Leiki locality under Imphal West district. One person received minor injuries in the Friday bombing.

On Thursday, a blast took place just 2 km from Kangla Fort, where the state’s official Republic Day function was celebrated. No one was injured. Militants exploded two powerful bombs in Kakwa area in Imphal West district Wednesday night but there was no casualty.

On Jan 22, militants triggered a powerful explosion outside the residence of I. Hemochandra Singh, the speaker of the outgoing assembly and a Congress party candidate in the state. The blast killed one person.

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