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Manipur’s second Lok Sabha seat votes Thursday

Imphal : Eight candidates are in the fray in Thursday’s poll to Manipur’s second Lok Sabha constituency with issues like misgovernance, unemployment and drug menace besides a stringent security law having dominated the campaign.

Around 874,000 voters, including 448,000 women electorate, are eligible to vote to select one member to the lower house of parliament from among the eight candidates, including a woman, in the Inner Manipur constituency.

Once ravaged by terrorism, Manipur still suffers from militancy, with the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, (AFSPA) being one of the big issues besides development.

“Withdrawal of the draconian law (AFSPA) is a big issue in Manipur. People wanted repeal of the Act,” political analyst Raj Kumar Tarunjit Singh told IANS.

“The Congress government in Manipur has also failed to convince its central leadership about the significance of withdrawal of AFSPA. Development is the other major issue in this election,” Singh said.

“Women voters outnumber their male counterparts and in Manipur’s society too, womenfolk play a significant role,” he added.

On April 9, around 78 percent of the total 911,000 voters in the tribal reserved Outer Manipur constituency cast their ballot.

According to political pundits, though there are eight candidates in the fray, the main battle will be between Congress’s incumbent member Thokchom Meinya Singh and Moirangthem Nara Singh of the Communist Party of India (CPI) and R.K. Ranjan Singh of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Meinya Singh, who is seeking re-election for the third consecutive term, defeated Nara Singh in the 2009 polls.

State Congress president and Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam also said the polls for Inner Manipur was crucial for the party.

“The Congress has gone all out to win both the Lok Sabha seats in the state to help the party’s cause in the country this time,” he said.

The Trinamool Congress, headed by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, has fielded Sarangthem Manaobi, a former Indian Police Service officer.

Repeal of the AFSPA, development of the state, misgovernance of the Congress government, unemployment and drug menace are among the major issues this time.

BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi addressed rallies in the state, once ravaged by terrorism. Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio had also campaigned.

Due to security reasons, polling hours in Manipur will be from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m, unlike the other northeastern states where votes could be cast between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Once a princely state, Manipur merged with India Oct 15, 1949. The state shares an unfenced border of around 400 km with Myanmar.