Manipur all set for final phase of polling on Saturday

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The over two-month-long hectic poll campaign for the second phase of the 60-member Manipur Assembly elections came to an end on Thursday afternoon ahead of voting on Saturday for the remaining 22 seats in six districts.

Election Officials said that more than 300 companies of Central paramilitary forces have been deployed in the second phase in Thoubal, Jiribam, Chandel, Ukhrul, Senapati and Tamenglong districts for Saturday’s polling.

Thoubal falls in the valley area while the other five districts are in the mountainous areas bordering Assam and Nagaland, as well as Myanmar, making security forces maintain high vigil along both the international and the inter-state borders.

According to the election officials, an electorate of 8,47,400, including 4,28,968 women, would cast their votes in 1,247 polling stations to decide the electoral fate of 92 candidates including two women.

Eelection officials said that as part of a series of measures for a Covid-safe election, mandatory sanitisation of the polling stations was done in all six districts.

Saturday’s balloting would settle the electoral fortunes of three time (2002-2017) Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, of the Congress, as well as several BJP ministers and sitting MLAs.

The 74-year-old veteran leader, Singh is contesting from the Thoubal Assembly seat in Thoubal district and is locked in a four-corner contest against BJP’s Leitanthem Basanta Singh, Janata Dal-United’s Irom Chaoba Singh and Shiv Sena’s Konsam Michael Singh.

The main opposition Congress did not field candidates in four of the 22 Assembly seats — Chandel, Mao, Tadubi, Tamenglong and the political circles observed that it is tacitly supporting the candidates of National People’s Party (NPP), headed by Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma, which is an ally of the BJP in both Meghalaya and Manipur since 2017, but contesting separately in Manipur this time.

The campaign has seen Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, BJP President J.P. Nadda, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, his Tripura counterpart Biplab Kumar Deb, NPP supremo Sangma, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, party General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Rajya Sabha Member Jairam Ramesh canvassing for their respective party candidates.

The BJP had bagged 21 seats in 2017 and came to power in the state for the first time, after stitching together a coalition government, with various parties including the NPP and the Naga People’s Front (NPF). However, this time, all three are contesting separately and put up candidates against each other.

The Congress, which governed the state for 15 consecutive years till 2017, had formed a Manipur Progressive Secular Alliance after forging a pre-poll alliance with four Left parties and Janata Dal-Secular.

The first phase of polling was held in 38 seats on February 28, when 88.63 per cent of 12,09,439 voters exercised their franchise.

Votes will be counted on March 10.

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