First phase of Manipur polls on Saturday

Imphal: Manipur goes to the polls on Saturday in the first of its two-phased elections across 38 Assembly constituencies.

The remaining 22 constituencies go to the polls on March 8.

Chief Election Officer V.K. Dewangan said all preparations have been made to conduct incident-free polling in the 1,643 polling stations in these constituencies. 

There are 5,44,050 male and 5,75,220 female voters for the first phase polling. Besides 5,169 male and 1,915 female service voters are expected to cast votes. 

Out of the polling stations, 839 have been identified as critical and 527 as vulnerable stations. 

Dewangan said that 280 companies of central paramilitary forces will be used on election security duty. No state force personnel will be deployed in polling stations. CCTV cameras will be installed at 71 check posts. 

He said 47 EVMs and personnel will be airlifted to five polling stations in Tamenglong district where road connectivity is very poor. Security and polling personnel in some hill areas have to use canoes or trudge in the mountain bridle paths along with poll materials. 

Postal ballot papers will be provided to 2,228 inmates of 14 designated camps who had come overground after signing MoU and suspension of operations. Official sources said they shall not be allowed to venture out of the designated camps till the end of the polling in the second phase. 

Meanwhile, district administration announced on Friday that the international border between Chandel district and Myanmar has been sealed and shall remain so till March 11. A district officer told IANS that it has been done to check inflow of foreigners who may cast votes in some tribal areas through impersonation. As a result, the legalised border trade at Moreh in Manipur and Namphalong in Myanmar is paralysed. 

For the first time, women security personnel and polling officials shall be deployed at 10 polling stations in Imphal east district and six polling stations in Bishnupur district. 

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the only party contesting all 60 seats in the entire state. The Congress, which was in power in the outgoing assembly is fielding 59 candidates. 

There are 168 candidates in the fray for the Saturday polls. Seven of them are women. 

The campaign for the 38 constituencies ended at 3 p.m. on Thursday. 

Dewangan warned that those violating the restrictions shall be strictly dealt with. 

On Friday, the BJP released full page advertisments attacking the ruling Congress. R.K. Dinesh, the additional chief election officer of Manipur, on Friday morning served a show cause notice to the editors for publishing these advertisements. Congress has been in power for 15 years. BJP which has a lone MLA after opening its accounts after 15 years is planning to wrest power. The ruling Congress has 49 MLAs. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and many other ministers and national leaders have been the star campaigners of the BJP. 

In case of Congress, party Vice President Rahul Gandhi is the only prominent leader who campaigned for the party, that too for just 30 minutes. 

Prohibitory orders under section 144 are clamped in all the 38 constituencies in the backdrop of widespread violence characterised by bomb blasts and gun attacks injuring several persons. Police and Income Tax officials seized unaccounted cash worth Rs 2.02 crore. Huge quantities of IMFL and country liquor and some narcotics drugs were also seized in the past few weeks. There is no chief ministerial candidate in the first phase of polling.