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Manipur turnout 70%

Imphal, Feb. 8: Biting cold and unusual winter rain greeted the electorate in Manipur’s three districts that went to the polls today.

But this did not deter the 5.99 lakh voters from donning colourful jackets or sporting bright umbrellas as they queued up in front of polling booths since early morning.

The franchise will help seal their decision on whether they want Okram Ibobi Singh back as chief minister for the next five years, or whether regional parties should be given a chance. More importantly, today’s votes will be a decisive factor for the United Naga Council’s campaign for “integration” of Naga-inhabited areas.

The jitters have already begun in various political camps but with a turnout of 70 to 73 per cent and a by-and-large peaceful poll, chief election officer R.R. Rashmi seemed a happy man.

Rashmi said repolling is likely in six to seven polling stations across Thoubal, Ukhrul and Senapati on Saturday. Polling was disrupted in five polling stations in Senapati district following clashes between workers of rival candidates.

Malfunctioning of electronic voting machines halted polling in two booths in Thoubal district. Not a single voter turned up at Rengui polling station in Chingai Assembly constituency.

There were allegations that supporters of an Independent candidate captured more than 20 booths in Tadubi Assembly constituency of Naga-dominated Senapati district, forcing the Congress candidate, Francis Ngajokpa, to lodge a complaint with the state’s chief electoral officer.

“We have received information that problem-makers captured booths in Tadubi constituency. The election has been reduced to a farce and we lodged complaints with the election authorities and demanded repoll in the constituency,” PCC president Gaikhangam said.

In his report to the election officer, Ngajokpa said supporters of an Independent candidate captured more than 20 polling booths. The United Naga Council has fielded K. Raina as an Independent against Ngajokpa.

The PCC president, however, said polling was peaceful in other constituencies in the district as well as in Ukhrul and Thoubal.

The chief electoral officer has asked the district election officer to submit a report on the matter.

Ibobi Singh and his wife Landhoni Devi also braved the elements to cast their votes. He emerged from the heavily-fortified Athokpam Makha Primary School booth in Khangabok constituency with a faint smile and said, “We are going to win at least eight of the 10 seats in Thoubal district.”

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