IMPHAL: Manipur recorded over 80 percent turnout in the assembly election Saturday but the figure could go up as voting was still on in some remote parts of the state, while at least seven people, including a paramilitary trooper and a suspected Naga militant, were killed in poll-related violence.
"We are expecting the final poll percentage to be around 86 percent. It will take time as polling is continuing in some remote polling booths across the state (as at 9.30 p.m.). In some polling stations, polling has been completed but we are yet to receive a confirmed report from the returning officers (ROs)," chief electoral officer P.C. Lawmkunga told IANS.
"However, looking at the trends, we are expecting that the final polling percentage will be around 86 percent," he said adding that they would be able to calculate the exact percentage of polling only Sunday morning.
A major tragedy was averted in Sagolband constituency after police and security forces recovered an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). It was later defused.
The state election office said that although the polling was officially to end at 3 p.m., the polling officers would wait till those already in queues at the booths have cast their votes.
According to officials, voting was taking more time as every voter was being photographed after casting their vote, to ensure transparency and stop proxy voting. This was being done for the first time in India, they said.
Live webcasting was also done at 60 polling booths in the Imphal valley, an official said and added that the poll panel can monitor the whole process of voting through it. This has been done for the first time in Manipur.
Violence was reported in Chandel district as a group of armed militants tried to capture a polling booth in remote Chakpi Karong village but were thwarted by security personnel. A Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) trooper was killed and six others were seriously injured in the ensuing gun battle.
The injured, who included a suspected Naga militant, a woman voter, three other polling officials and a young girl, succumbed on way to the hospital.
Polling started at 7 a.m. and continued peacefully till noon with people turning out in huge numbers to elect a 60-member assembly despite a string of bomb blasts during the past one week.
In Tipaimukh constituency also, a minor incident of violence was recorded when some irate electors damaged an EVM at a polling booth. This caused security personnel to open fire but no one was injured.
Voting took place amid tight security at 2,357 polling booths, of which 875 were termed hyper-sensitive.
Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh and his legislator wife, Landhoni Devi cast their vote around 7.30 a.m. at a polling booth in Thoubal Aphokpam Lower Primary School in Khangabok constituency. Landhoni Devi is the sitting legislator from Khangabok.
"I am expecting that the Congress party would secure around 45 seats. But 35 is the minimum number we are winning," the two-time chief minister told IANS after casting his vote.
"People will come out despite the militants' threat as it is a democratic exercise that comes after every five years and no one wants to miss it," he said.
In addition to the state's police forces, the state election authority had deployed 350 companies of central paramilitary forces for smooth conduct of the election.
A day ahead of the polls, suspected militants triggered a blast at Thangmeiban Iikamdewan Leiki area in Imphal West district. One person received minor injuries in the bombing.
On Thursday, a blast took place just 2 km from Kangla Fort, where the state's official Republic Day function was celebrated. No one was injured. Militants exploded two powerful bombs in Kakwa area in Imphal West district Wednesday night but there was no casualty.
On Jan 22, militants triggered a powerful explosion outside the residence of I. Hemochandra Singh, the speaker of the outgoing assembly and a Congress party candidate in the state. One person was killed in the blast.