Manipur geared up for Saturday’s final phase of polling on 22 seats

With the deployment of around 20,000 Central paramilitary forces, tight security is in place across six districts in Manipur for the second and final phase of Assembly elections on Saturday when balloting would take place in the remaining 22 of the 60 constituencies.

Manipur Chief Electoral Officer Rajesh Agrawal on Friday said that 4,988 polling personnel, accompanied by security forces, have reached the 1,247 polling stations in Thoubal, Jiribam, Chandel, Ukhrul, Senapati and Tamenglong districts.

He said that in all 8,38,730 electors, 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 2 female.

Out of 92 candidates, 17 candidates 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 would be completely manned by all women polling personnel, Agrawal said.

Meanwhile, re-polling would be held in 12 polling stations under five assembly constituencies in two districts — Imphal East and Churachandpur — on Saturday.

The CEO said that the re-polling would be held as the miscreants have damaged Electronic Voting Machines during and after the first phase of polling on February 28.

Of the six districts, where the elections would be held on Saturday, 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.

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.

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