Imphal: Nearly 82 percent voters exercised their franchise in Saturday, January 28, 2012 voting for the 60 assembly constituencies of Manipur Assembly. The heavy voting, however, was accompanied by violence despite deployment of around 350 companies of security personnel including 270 central para military forces besides the state armed police. Six people including three polling officials and a CRPF jawan were killed in Chandel district when armed cadres of the banned Naga insurgent outfit NSCN (IM) attempted capturing a polling booth in remote Chakpi Karong village.
Chandel district in south Manipur borders Myanmar in the east and south and is one the Naga-dominated hill districts of the state. The NSCN (IM) has strong presence in the four Naga-dominated districts of Ukhrul, Senapati, Tamenglong and Chandel. Its general secretary Th Muivah is from Ukhrul district in Manipur.
The state had not been peaceful even during the run up to election which saw a series of IED explosions. Despite the threat of violence people came out to cast their vote since early morning when voting started at 7 am.
Nearly 1.74 million (17.4 lakh) voters were eligible to vote in this election across 2,357 polling stations of the nine Manipur districts [Imphal East, Imphal West, Bishnnupur and Thoubal (all in valley) and Churachandpur, Ukhrul, Senapati, Tamenglong and Chandel in the hills]. Of the 2,357 polling stations in the state, only 160 were classified as normal by the Election Commission. 1,325 polling stations were termed sensitive and 872 i.e. more than a third of the total no. of polling stations hyper-sensitive.
The elections commission deployed nearly 13000 polling personnel to conduct the elections which began at 7 am and continue till 4 pm. However, the polling personnel waited till those already in queues outside the booths had cast their votes. A total of 279 candidates are in the fray for the 10th Manipur Assembly.
Prominent candidates whose fate has been sealed in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) today include Chief Minister Ibobi Singh (Thoubal constituency), former vice chancellor of Manipur university Ng Bijoy (Khurai) and Forest Minister Th Debendra (Jiribam). Other prominent candidates include former CM and Leader of the Opposition from Nationalist Congress Party Radhabinod Koijam (Thangmeiband) and Manipur People’s Party’s Okram Joy Singh (Langthabal).
Though the Congress is widely tipped to be winning, the People Democratic Front – a five-party pre-poll alliance – could dent the ruling alliance’s chances. Congress despite being in alliance with CPI in the ruling Secular Progressive Front is contesting all the 60 seats. CPI is contesting on 24.
Peoples Democratic Front comprising Manipur Peoples Party, NCP, CPI-M, Janata Dal (U) and RJD, contested 43 seats. Trinamool Congress has contested 47 seats on its own. The BJP fielded candidates in 19 seats and Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP) in 34.
The game changer, however, could be debutant Nagaland People’s Front (NPF). There are 11 Naga-dominated constituencies in the four Naga dominated hill districts. They could crucial in the 60-member assembly. NPF has fielded 11 Naga candidates and a Kuki candidate symbolising signs of political integration.
Only counting day will finally decide whether the Congress would get the desire benefit of a divided Opposition.