New Delhi: Voters on Saturday lined up before 2,357 polling stations across nine districts of Manipur as elections began in 60 assembly constituencies amid tight security. An electorate of 17,40,576, including 8,82,236 woman voters, are eligible to exercise their franchise to choose their representatives from among 279 candidates in the 10th Assembly polls.
Incumbent Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, who is contesting for a third term, cast his vote at a polling station in Khangabok of Thoubal district, officials said.
Around 350 companies of security personnel including 270 central para military forces were deployed besides the state armed police.
A total of 12,967 polling personnel have been deployed to conduct the elections which began at 7 am and would continue till 4 pm. Authorities are keeping a close watch on the security situation in this North-Eastern state during voting to elect the 60-member Assembly amid reports that some insurgent groups might disrupt polling at some places.
Reports reaching the state capital indicated that insurgent organisations might target some poll candidates as there have been a spate of blasts in the past few days.
Prominent candidates whose fate would be sealed on Saturday include the Chief Minister who is contesting from Thoubal constituency, former vice chancellor of Manipur university Ng Bijoy (Khurai) and Forest Minister Th Debendra (Jiribam).
Manipur has nine districts - Imphal East, Imphal West, Bishnnupur and Thoubal (all in valley) and Churachandpur, Ukhrul, Senapati, Tamenglong and Chandel in the hills.
Security forces are keeping a tab on the situation in the state, where blasts have taken place in the past few days, amid reports that insurgent groups might target some candidates.
A person was injured on Friday when militants exploded a bomb at the house of a former Manipur government official at Thangmeiband in Imphal West district.
Key candidates for Manipur Polls:
Okram Ibobi Singh of the Congress party is contesting from the Thoubal Seat. He is the sitting Chief Minister for the last two terms since March 2002.
Radhabinod Koijam of the Nationalist Congress Party is the Leader of the Opposition and is contesting from the Thangmeiband seat. Koijam was also chief minister in 2001.
Meanwhile, chief Opposition Manipur People's Party's Okram Joy Singh is contesting from the Langthabal seat. He is the longest serving MPP MLA.
Key issues for Manipur:
Will the Congress benefit once more because of a scattered Opposition?
Can the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), unabated violence and human rights be key determinants in voting patterns?
Manipur is also seeing the emergence of the People Democratic Front - a five-party pre-poll alliance - could this dent the Congress' chances?
Will the presence of the Nagaland People's Front in this election be a game-changer?
With Additional Inputs from PTI