82 pc turnout in largely peaceful polling; seven killed in an attack at Chandel dist

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Exercising Franchise: Women lining up in long queue to cast their votes at a polling station in Imphal on Saturday.
IMPHAL, Jan 28: A high turnout of above 82 per cent was recorded at the Assembly elections today which remained largely peaceful baring the death of seven persons in a daring attack by suspected NSCN-IM cadres at Tampi in Chandel district and sporadic reports of booth capturing.

Chief Electoral Officer P C Lawmkunga said as per preliminary official reports, 82 per cent of the 17.50 lakh electorate cast their votes even as details from the state’s nine districts were awaited.

At the same time, bombs suspected to have been planted by militants were seized and defused before the start of polling in Khurai Chingangbam area, Sawombung High School, Khomidok in Imphal East district and Naoremthong High School area in Imphal West district, official sources said.

There were also reports from six other places in the state where mobs damaged Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and in another incident miscreants snatched an EVM, said deputy election commissioner, Alok Shukla in New Delhi.

However, the chief electoral officer expressed his satisfaction at the overall process of electioneering throughout the state adding that voting was smooth and peaceful baring the incident in Tampi.

But reports gathered by media across the state stated that the pace of voting was severely impeded in many polling stations in both hill and valley districts. The voting which was to officially end at 3 pm ran upto 9 pm. High placed officials of the state election commission admitted that the unprecedented delay was a result of the time taken in photographic recording of the electorates prior to exercising their franchise.

The EC sources also disclosed that there are possibilities of re-poll in some stations in Tamenglong, Ukhrul and Chandel districts where incidents of booth capturing were reported.

Incidentally, Chandel district recorded the highest polling percentage with 91 pc voters casting their votes in the two constituencies, according to the provisional figures available at 6.30 pm. The lowest turnout was recorded in Tamenglong district, where the cumulative percentage of voters in the three districts was only 70.69 pc.

Valley districts of Imphal East and West, Thoubal and Bishnupur districts witnessed a turnout of around 85 percent while Churachandpur and Senapati districts observed a figure of 79 pc turnout.

Ukhrul recorded a poll turn-out of 82 percent amidst reports of booth capturing and damages to EVMs chiefly in the western part of the district.

The reports of poll irregularities and booth capturing was carried out suspected NPF supporters in Phalee, Somdal, Tolloi, Ngainga, Tora and Changta areas.

The report of snatching and destruction of EVMs were filed from Sirarakhong and Ringui villages from Chingai Assembly seat. Whereas in the same constituency, the polling stations at its northern region like Poi, Huishu, Challou, Chingai, Chingjaroi, Tusom, Jessami etc remained calm and peaceful. The report also added the INC candidate there, MK Preshow had filed a complaint letter for re-poll in many stations.

Alok Shukla said the final poll percentage would be available only after receiving details from across the state. As polling continued till late due to long queues inside polling booths, election officials hoped the turnout would be higher. The state had witnessed a polling percentage of 84.7 per cent in the 2007 general assembly elections while it was lower at 67.8 per cent during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Today’s voting saw the fate of Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh (Thoubal), Forest Minister and Congress leader Th Debendra (Jiribam), Congress nominee and Speaker I Hemochandra Singh (Singjamei), former chief minister and NCP chief Radhabinod Koijam (Thangmeiband) and Manipur People’s Party (MPP) leader and former deputy chief minister L Chandramani Singh (Patsoi) sealed in EVMs.

A total of 279 candidates, including 15 women, were in the fray for the 60-member Manipur assembly. The EC had set up 2,365 polling stations and appointed 19 general observers, nine police observers and 13 expenditure observers, besides 64 assistant expenditure observers and 135 micro observers for smooth and fair polls in the state. While two helicopters were also pressed into service and video cameras used in these polls, live webcasting of polling was done in 60 polling stations.

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