By-polls held in four ACs in Manipur; Sporadic incidents reported

By-polls held in four ACs in Manipur; Sporadic incidents reported
Voters flouting social distancing norms.
Correspondent IMPHAL, NOV 7 | Publish Date: 11/7/2020 1:03:10 PM IST

By-polls in four Assembly constituencies spread over three districts of Manipur passed off peacefully with high voter turnout on Saturday.

While there were no violence incident that would disturb the voting process reported from any of the 203 polling stations spread over the four Assembly segments, there were reports of voters being threatened ahead of the by-polls. Assault and threatening of voters, arrest of polling agents ahead of the polling hour and bulk casting votes allegedly took place during the voting hours in some places.

Four Assembly constituencies; Wangoi in Imphal West, Lilong and Wangjing-Tentha in Thoubal district and Saitu (ST) in Kangpokpi district voted today to decide the fates of 11 candidates in the fray. 

The voting that commenced at 7 am on Saturday went on till late evening even after past the past the polling deadline of at 7 pm by the ECI.

Except delay in commencement of voting and suspension of voting for some hours due to technical errors in voting machines (EVMs), no untoward incidents were reported from any of the polling stations.

Despite various measures to strictly implement the COVID-19 SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) taken up by the by-poll conducting authorities, there were reports of social distancing SOP not followed from most of the polling stations.

High voter turnout of above 80% was expected in all the four constituencies. The state chief electoral officer (CEO) however did not release the official final voter turnout till the time of filing this report.

An incident of intimidating voters was reported in a village within Wangjing-Tentha in Thoubal district where three candidates –BJP, Congress and an independent candidate were in the fray.

A group of around 50 people armed with deadly weapons allegedly threatened voters of Tekcham village of the constituency not to come out to cast votes and even assaulted some of them last night.

Independent candidate Sarangthem Manaobi of the constituency, in a complaint lodged to the police, alleged that the group of people were workers and supporters of BJP candidate.

Manaobi strongly condemned the police for not initiating action to arrest those behind assaulting and threatening voters even though he lodged the complaint timely.

Police personnel of the district,  including SP came to the village after he lodged the complaint but did nothing to initiate action against them, he alleged.

Talking to reporters at a polling station, he termed the incident “terrorising the voters” and demanded action from the ECI authority. On the other hand, a police team in Kangpokpi district picked up some workers of Congress candidate in Saitu (ST Reserved) AC including his chief election agent last night.

Though police alleged the workers picked up were involved in the assault of BJP workers and supporters, Congress candidate Dr Lamtinthang Haokip denied it,

He said that they were picked up no sooner they left his residence last night. 

The candidate alleged that even though his workers, including his chief election agent were picked by a team of Sapermaina police, they were at locked-up at the Sekmai police station of Imphal West district.

The candidate further alleged that it was not an election but “selection” that was going on in the constituency.

He strongly charged BJP workers and supporters of indulging in proxy voting in a rampant manner.

He alleged that groups of people suspected to be supporters of the BJP candidate went from village to village the night earlier and collected slips provided to the voters while threatening them not to come out to cast votes.

Some village chiefs also indulged in the collection of voter slips so that they could cast the votes in favour of the candidate they supported, he added.

Ruling BJP candidate Ngamthang Haokip whose resignation as Congress MLA from the state Assembly necessitated the by-poll and he is now contesting the by-poll as BJP candidate against Congress.

Meanwhile, voting was in progress till late this evening even as the voting hour ended at 7 pm as election conducting authority allowed those voters who were already inside the polling station to cast votes.

Voters’ turnout rate in every polling station was reportedly high. It was speculated that it was above 80% of the total 1,35,212 electors.

All voters who turn-up to cast their votes were provided COVID-19 protective gears like face masks, hand sanitizers and hand gloves in every polling booth by the ASHA and Anganwadi workers as a part of ECI guideline and precautionary measure to prevent spread of COVID-19 during elections.

There were altogether 1,35,212 electors in the four ACs where polling was conducted on Saturday to decide the fates of 11 candidates in the fray.

Of the 11 candidates, four were Congress nominees, three BJP, three independents and one NPP.

For the first time in the state, ‘mark-III’ electronic voting machine (EVM) and voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) were introduced.

Around 2,294 polling personnel, including security, were stationed in the 203 polling stations spread across the four constituencies to conduct the voting in a smooth manner.

The counting of votes will be conducted on November 10.


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