Imphal, Feb 28 (UNI): Manipur recorded a heavy voter turnout, as close to 80% of the electorate cast their mandate, with polling continuing even two hours after the scheduled close amid reports of stray violence in round one of the state Assembly elections covering 38 constituencies on Monday.
Officials said with the weather being pleasant, voters turned up at the booths in large numbers, and stood in the queue smilingly.
At many booths, women voters, decked up in colourful attire, seemed to be outnumbering the men. The first-time voters seemed the most enthused. The poll process, which started slowly, gradually picked up as the day progressed.
Governor Ganesan, Chief Minister N Biren Singh, Deputy Chief Minister Y Joykumar, Assembly Speaker Y Khemchand and state Congress President N Loken were among those who cast their vote.
By 3 pm, the polling percentage had gone up to 61.35. The polling, which began at 7 am, officially closed at 4 pm, but those who entered the polling station before the closing hour were being allowed to vote.
There were many voters waiting patiently for their turn to exercise their democratic right even at 6 pm. According to the Election officials, by 5 pm, the polling figure had reached 78.03%.
Voters complained that the polling process took much longer than in previous elections. Some of them said the identification of voters by comparing their identity cards and issuing voter slips were consuming a lot of time.
A havildar of Manipur Rifles Naorem Ibochouba Singh died at the Senvon polling station under the Tipaimukh constituency in Churachandpur district. where he was deployed on poll duty. A case of unnatural death has been registered His body has been airlifted to Imphal.
Manipur Chief Electoral Officer Rajesh Aggarwal said: “It is suspected to be a case of accidental firing from his service weapon.”
Poll violence was reported at Imphal East, Kangpokpi districts, but the authorities controlled the situation by sending additional forces. Due to clashes at Keithelmanbi, the Electronic Voting Machine was damaged and the poll process got delayed.
As the EVM was damaged there was a possibility of holding a repoll in the particular polling station. In Saltu constituency, Congress candidate Haokip alleged intimidation by other political parties while BJP lodged a complaint to the Election Commission of India accusing Congress workers of resorting to violence.
Reports of sporadic clashes also came from Churachandpur, district and Keirao constituency in Imphal East district. In Churachandpur, there was a clash between two groups. An official said an EVM was damaged at a booth under Singhat constituency in Churachandpur district.
The poll process, however, resumed after it was replaced. There were some reports of workers of some candidates resorting to violence at Langthabal and Keirao constituencies. Police said an FIR was lodged as there was a report of firing by some persons near polling station number 6/32 at Phunal Maring under Keirao constituency. Allegations of candidates trying to seek votes using money and muscle power poured in from some areas.
Manipur’s ancient headquarters Kangla. and the famed historic and religious town of Moirang – noted for the tourism hotspot Lok Tak Lake, the ancient temple of Lord Thangjing and the exploits of the Indian National Army of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose during the country’s freedom struggle – are among the notable areas in Monday’s polling.
Ganesan appealed to all to refrain from violence and conduct the elections in a free and fair manner. N Biren Singh also urged everyone to exercise their franchise.