By-polls record 92.54 pc turnout, COVID-19 SOP virtually thrown to the wind Mid-way through 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly, four ACs vote for fresh MLAs


By-polls_1  H x
Staff Reporters/Correspondent
IMPHAL, Nov 7: Fates of the 11 candidates who are contesting for the four Assembly seats of Saitu, Wangjing-Tentha, Lilong and Wangoi have been sealed in EVMs.
Voting began at 7 am today and went on till 5 pm, and the voter turnout was pegged at 92.54 per cent.
According to an official report received at 7 pm, the overall poll percentage is 92.54 per cent.
Wangoi AC recorded 93.26 per cent voter turnout, Lilong 93.30 per cent, Wangjing-Tentha 92.30 per cent and Saitu 91.59 per cent.
Sources informed that voting continued past 5 pm at some polling stations of Saitu, Wangoi and Wangjing-Tentha.
The by-election was by and large peaceful except for some incidents of minor confrontation between rival groups.
CEO PK Singh told The Sangai Express that there was no major incident of violence or disturbance during the by-polls and no major complaint has been received so far.
He said that some COVID-19 patients were allowed to cast votes by wearing PPE suits.
Out of the 13 vacant seats of the Manipur Legislative Assembly, the ECI notified by-election in five Assembly segments on November 7. The MLAs who represented these Assembly segments resigned on August 10.
Of the five Assembly segments notified for by-election, Singhat AC was captured by ex-MLA and BJP candidate Ginsuanhau unchallenged.  He has been already sworn in as a Member of Manipur Legislative Assembly.
In a triangular contest, O Lukhoi (BJP), Kh Loken (NPP) and S Joy (INC) are fighting for Wangoi Assembly seat.
Two independent candidates Y Antas Khan, Md Abdul Nasir and INC’s Md Azizul Haque Khan are vying for Lilong seat.
Wangjing-Tentha AC is also having a triangular contest among P Brojen (BJP), M Hemanta (INC) and S Manaobi (Independent).
It is a straight fight in Saitu AC between Lamtin-thang Haokip (INC) and Ngamthang Haokip (BJP).
Congress candidate in Saitu AC, Dr Lamtinthang Haokip has made a strong charge that BJP workers in collusion with some Kuki militants under SoO pact indulged in all kinds of electoral malpractices and unlawful activities.
Speaking to a team of media persons, Dr Lamtin-thang said that he would lodge complaints to the ECI and the RO concerned against the electoral malpractices and illegal activi- ties committed by BJP workers in connivance with Kuki militants.
At a polling station located at Kangchup Chiru, KRA cadres prevented a large number of voters from exercising their right to adult franchise. As the KRA cadres arrogantly brushed aside repeated appeals of local womenfolk to let the voting go on in free and fair manner, a tense stand-off ensued between the two sides.
One KNA man sat inside Tingkai Khullen polling station and allowed only BJP supporters to cast votes while Congress supporters were barred from entering the polling station, leave aside casting votes, Dr Lamtinthang said.
He said that BJP supporters in collusion with some Kuki militants under SoO pact indulged in all kinds of electoral malpractices at some polling stations of Tumuyon Khullen and Mayangkhang.
At one polling station of Leimakhong, voter slips were given to only one group of voters in the morning, he further alleged.
A team of media persons who visited polling station numbers 51/46 and 51/47 opened at New Keithel-manbi Upper Primary School were harassed by some people for taking photographs without informing them.
Denouncing the alleged transgression of jurisdiction by Sekmai police and detention of the Saitu AC’s Congress chief agent at Sekmai police station, Congress supporters led by Dr Lamtinthang staged a protest demonstration at the police station.             
In Wangjing-Tentha AC and Lilong AC, the by-election went off peacefully except for some minor incidents at two/three polling stations.
Notwithstanding repeated appeals from the Election Commission of India and the State’s Chief Electoral Officer, voters at most of the polling stations did not comply with the COVID-19 SOP.
Although hand gloves and face masks were distributed to voters in the initial hours of voting, voters who came out later were given neither hand gloves nor face masks.
As a media team rushed to 34/12 Wangjing Tekcham Leikai polling station of Wangjing-Tentha AC following reports of keeping away the Congress candidate’s polling agent from the polling station while the polling agents of BJP and the independent candidates were given entry, the Presiding Officer claimed that the polling agents of Congress, BJP and independent candidates did submit their particulars but the Congress candidate’s polling agent did not turn up.
As a new model, the polling station opened at IRE College of Education, Wangjing was exclusively manned by women polling personnel and it was guard-ed by only women security personnel.
BJP, Congress and an independent candidate are fighting for the Wangjing-Tentha seat.
Speaking to media persons after casting his vote at Tentha Heibung polling station (34/4), Congress candidate Moirangthem Hemanta said that he was gratified on seeing people exercising their right to adult franchise peacefully without any sense of fear.
He, however, lamented that majority of the voters did not a give a hoot about the COVID-19 SOP.
He said that he was contesting the by-election to defeat the man/candidate who imposed the by-polls on the people of Wangjing-Tentha AC amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking to media persons before casting his vote at Wangjing High School polling station (34/17), BJP candidate Paonam Brojen claimed that he was contesting the by-election after resigning from the State Assembly with a firm convic- tion that he would be able to do a lot for development of Wangjing-Tentha AC by joining the ruling party.
Independent candidate Sarangthem Manaobi alias Khoiranthaba who cast his vote at Wangjing Hodamba Junior High School polling station (34/9) remarked that today’s election was not election but war.
A group of around 50 people thrashed many people yesterday and some of them were hospitalised  but police were not doing anything. Even though an FIR has been lodged against the assailants, no one has been pulled up so far, Manaobi said.
He said that today’s election was an ‘election of terrorism’.  
In Lilong AC, one Congress candidate and two independent candidates are contesting the by-election.