Around 11.40 per cent voter turnout was recorded till 9 a.m on Saturday in the second and final phase of the Manipur Assembly polls conducted in 22 of the 60 constituencies amid tight security, election officials said.
Men, women and first time voters in large numbers queued up in front of the polling stations well before the voting started at 7 a.m. in six electoral districts.
The election officials said that no untoward incident was reported so far from any of the 22 constituencies, where the balloting is going on smoothly. Voting will continue till 4 p.m. without any break.
According to the officials, more than 20,000 Central paramilitary force troopers have been deployed in the second phase in Thoubal, Jiribam, Chandel, Ukhrul, Senapati and Tamenglong districts for the polling.
While the Thoubal district falls in the valley area, the other five electoral districts are in the mountainous areas bordering Assam and Nagaland, as well as Myanmar, making security forces maintain maximum vigil along both the international and the inter-state borders.
Manipur Chief Electoral Officer Rajesh Agrawal said that 4,988 polling personnel have been posted in 1,247 polling stations in the six electoral districts to conduct the polling.
He said that in all, 8,38,730 voters, including 4,28,679 females and 31 transgenders, are eligible to exercise their franchise in the second phase to decide the electoral fate of 92 candidates, including two female.
Of the 92 candidates, 17 have criminal antecedents, the election official said.
The CEO said that like the first phase of elections on February 28, adequate arrangements have been made in all polling stations to ensure Covid safe election. All polling stations have been sanitised, while Asha and Anganwadi workers have been engaged. Marking of circles with minimum distance has been done to avoid crowding.
Besides, masks, gloves, face shield, thermal scanners, PPE kits have been provided to polling parties. Voters who are Covid positive or are under quarantine will be allowed to vote at the last hour between 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
To enable the women to participate in the election process vigorously, 223 of the polling stations are completely manned by all women polling personnel, Agrawal said.
Meanwhile, re-polling is also being held on Saturday in 12 polling stations under the five Assembly constituencies in two districts — Imphal East and Churachandpur.
The CEO said that the re-polling is being conducted as the miscreants have damaged Electronic Voting Machines during and after the first phase of polling on February 28.
Saturday’s elections would settle the electoral fortunes of three time (2002-2017) Chief Minister and 74-year-old veteran Congress leader Okram Ibobi Singh as well as several BJP ministers and sitting MLAs.
Singh is contesting from the Thoubal Assembly seat 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 political pundits opined that Congress in the four seats 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 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.