Manipur votes for its second LS seat Thursday

Imphal : The Congress-ruled Manipur votes Thursday for its second Lok Sabha seat.

“Over 12,000 central para-military forces and state security personnel have been deployed in the four mountainous districts — Imphal East, Imphal West, Bishenpur, and Thoubal – where the elections would be held,” an Election Commission official told reporters.

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A local militant outfit has called a 12-hour general strike in Manipur Wednesday, accusing the state government of failing to undertake suitable developmental schemes in the state.

In Thursday’s elections, eight candidates including a woman, are in the fray to test their electoral fortune in Inner Manipur seat.

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

Around 874,000 voters, including 448,000 women, are eligible to vote in the second phase Thursday at 1,406 polling stations.

Once ravaged by terrorism, Manipur still suffers from militancy, but the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, (AFSPA) continues to be one of the major issues with development.

“Withdrawal of the draconian law (AFSPA) is a key issue in Manipur. People want 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.

Besides withdrawal of the AFSPA, the other issues dominating the election campaign are the alleged misgovernance by the Congress, under-development, unemployment and drug menace.

The main contest is between the Congress’s incumbent Lok Sabha member Thokchom Meinya Singh, Moirangthem Nara Singh of the Communist Party of India (CPI), and R.K. Ranjan Singh, former Manipur University professor, of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

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

State Congress president and Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam 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 police officer.

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 also campaigned.

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

Manipur, once a princely state, shares an unfenced border of around 400 km with Myanmar.