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Manipur defies blazing guns & boycott call, clocks 70% voting


TNN | Apr 20, 2024, 01.51 AM IST

GUWAHATI: Conflict-scarred Manipur braved gunshots, goons and calls for a poll boycott in some pockets to end the first phase of elections to two Lok Sabha seats with a turnout in excess of 70.79%, led by booths set up for thousands of riot-displaced people still living in relief camps.

An elderly voter awaiting his turn at a polling station in Bishnupur district's Thamanpokpi was wounded in firing during a suspected booth-capture attempt after hitch-free polling during the first few hours. Police arrested three suspects and seized a firearm and five bullets from them.

Kangpokpi, one of the hill districts, reported a turnout way lower than the state average as the poll boycott announced by multiple community organisations kicked in. Saikul, one among three assembly segments of Outer Manipur constituency, had a little over 19% of voters show up at the booths. Kangpokpi (38.14%) and Saitu (29.81%) were the other two laggards,

The rest of the hills, including Churachandpur, seemed to make up for Kangpokpi's lack of enthusiasm with a significantly higher voting percentage. Overall, voters in the valley outnumbered those in the hill districts.

There were reports of armed men trying to force election agents of a particular political party out of stations at Uripok and Iroishemba in Imphal West district, which is part of the Inner Manipur constituency. Voters at Iroishemba retaliated to the intimidation by vandalising a booth.

Turnout nil in 6 Nagaland districts after bandh call

In Imphal East's Khurai, some VVPAT units were damaged in a backlash against alleged proxy voting by goons.

"We have received a few reports of some damage to EVMs, besides criminal intimidation or attempts to influence voters. We are seeking reports from the districts and necessary action will be taken once these are received," news agency ANI quoted the state's chief electoral officer Pradeep Jha as saying.

While Inner Manipur constituency in the valley wrapped up polling, 13 assembly segments of the Outer Manipur seat will go to polls in the second phase on April 26. Friday's electoral exercise was in the other 15 assembly segments of the constituency.

The ethnic conflict between the valley and hill populations since May last year has created a divide that continues to cause socio-political tremors.

The run-up to the polls was subdued, with minimal campaigning by the principal contenders in the BJP-governed state. Home minister Amit Shah's April 15 rally was the only large campaign activity of the election.