Imphal: With battle lines drawn after a high-pitch campaign led by the country’s political stalwarts, 38 constituencies in Manipur are all set to go to the hustings on Monday amidst heightened security in round one of the two-phase state Assembly polls.
Polling for the remaining 22 constituencies is scheduled for March 5 in the culturally vibrant Northeastern state, renowned for its traditional classical and folk dance forms and successes in the international and national sports arena.
Almost 80 percent of the state’s valley areas and 20 percent of the hills are slated to vote on the morrow when the fate of a host of leading political figures including Chief Minister N Biren Singh (Heingang constituency), Speaker Y Khemchand (Singjamei) and Deputy Chief Minister Y Joykumar (Uripok) will be decided.
While Biren and Khemchand are BJP candidates, Joykumar represents the National People’s Party (NPP). Around 1.29 lakh voters spread across 1721 polling stations are eligible to choose their representatives from among 173 candidates of whom 15 are women.
The formidable women contestants include former Minister for Social Welfare and Cooperation in the N Biren cabinet Nemcha Kipgen (BJP) at Kangpokpi and former Minister Akoijam Mirabai (Indian National Congress) at Patsoi.
Monday’s polling spans a geographical area covering the state capital Imphal including Manipur’s ancient headquarters Kangla, besides 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.
The ruling BJP, which is contesting the polls alone, is in the fray in all the 38 seats. The Congress, having stitched up an alliance with the Left parties and the Janata Dal (Secular), has put up candidates in 35 seats, and is backing its partners in the remaining three constituencies.
JD(U) is in the race in 28 seats, while the NPP has two nominees. The pollsters have been predicting mostly multi-cornered contests, in which the BJP and the Congress, as also the JD(U), could be the principal players. In a no-holds-barred campaign, the BJP and the Congress fielded their top leaders to woo the voters.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa, his Tripura counterpart Biplab Kumar were among those who tried to drum up support for the saffron party. For the Congress, its former President Rahul Gandhi and ex-Union Minister Jairam Ramesh were among those who canvassed for support.
The NPP roped in Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, who held rallies and meetings. Monday’s polls are being held in the backdrop of the poll eve attack on the JD(U) candidate in Kshetrigao constituency Wahengbam Rojit, who is in hospital with crucial bullet injuries. This has prompted the authorities to further strengthen security, and close to 300 companies of security personnel have reached their designated polling stations for election duty.
Electronic Voting Machines will be used in all the polling stations. Voting will start at 7 AM and end at 4 PM, but those who enter the polling station before the closing hour will be allowed to vote.