Manipur elections underway amid heavy security
Imphal, Jan 28 (IBNS): Voting is underway in Manipur for the far-flung northeastern stateís 60 Assembly constituencies amidst tight security.
India Blooms News Service
Voters lined up before 2,357 polling stations across the Manipurís nine districts with a collective electorate of 17,40,576, including 8,82,236 women.
This time, for the stateís 10th Assembly polls, 279 candidates are in the fray.
A total of 12,967 polling personnel have been deployed to conduct the elections which began at 7 am and would continue till 4 pm.
About 350 companies of security personnel, including 270 central para military forces, along with 30,000 Manipur Police personnel have been deployed.
Three helicopters have also been pressed into service to carry out air surveillance in state where the that has witnessed five bomb attacks in the last two days.
Prominent candidates whose fate would be sealed on Saturday include the Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh who is contesting from Thoubal constituency.
Singh, who hopes to lead the Congress to a third consecutive term in the state, cast his vote at a polling station in Khangabok of Thoubal district, officials said.
While polling so far has been largely incident-free as per last available reports, a cloud of fear hung over many parts of the state due to the heightened insurgent strikes.
However, Manipurís chief poll officer said the situation was under control now.
"We don't have any problem in law and conduct. We have deployed security with the help of Assam Rifles. We are prepared for any situation. We are in good position. I am very hopeful that elections would be held peacefully," PC Lawnkunga, Chief Electoral Officer, Manipur said.
Among the stateís burning issues that could decide the results of this elections is separatism that has troubled the state since 1964 with militant groups seeking sovereignty.
The Nagas, the indigenous inhabitants of the of the stateís hills, have been struggling for an administrative arrangement to grant them greater control.
Their struggles manifested last year in a three-month-long economic blockade that led to a severe crisis of supplies on the state.
Tthe Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), a tough military law enacted to control insurgency in the state, and a matter of widespread resentment among the stateís people could also sway the polls.
Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee, who came to power in West Bengal by ousting the Leftist government of the state in a landslide victory last year, launched a campaign in the state centred over the sensitive issue.
Her party, an ally of the Congress at the Centre and even in West Bengal, is contesting against it in the Manipur fielding 48 candidates.
Launching a high-pitched and flashy campaign, she met with Irom Charu Sharmila, the icon of Manipurís protest against AFSPA who has been on a hunger strike for 11 years and is force fed intravenously by authorities.
"I want to see a young Manipur. If our party comes to power we set up expert committee to ensure that all draconian laws are removed. We will protect human right and work for human resource development. We will issue farmers' credit card," she said.
The governing Congress, meanwhile, that currently holds 31 of the 60 seats in the state legislative assembly is promising voters better law and order and more development.