Manipur Polls: Campaigning Ends for Second and Final Phase

The campaign for the second and final phase of the 60-member Manipur Assembly, covering 22 seats and slated for 8 March, ended on Monday at 3 pm.

A total of 98 candidates are in the fray for the second phase, when polling will be held in the Valley district of Thoubal and the hill districts of Ukhrul, Chandel, Tamenglong and Senapati.

The fate of almost all big names in the north-east state's politics – including Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, Deputy CM Gaikhangam and human rights activist-turned-politician Irom Chanu Sharmila – will be decided in this phase.

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Sharmila, who fasted for 16 years seeking the repeal of AFSPA in the state, is in the election fray for the first time and is pitted against Ibobi Singh in Thoubal constituency.

The first phase of voting, when 38 seats went to the polls, took place on 4 March and recorded a huge voter turnout of 84 percent. The results will be declared on 11 March.

The poll this time is billed as a major test for the 15-year-old Congress regime but party president Sonia Gandhi, who has not been keeping well, did not campaign in the state.

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The task of spearheading the Congress campaign was left to party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who addressed a rally here on 28 February.

BJP held rallies – by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 25 February and by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on 19 February – in Imphal.

The campaign this time was a narrative of bitter exchanges between Congress and BJP over the ongoing over-four-month-old economic blockade and the Naga Peace Accord. While Congress accused BJP of compromising with the territorial integrity of Manipur, BJP denied the allegation.

The Naga Peace Accord, termed a 'framework agreement', was signed between NSCN(IM) and the Centre in August 2015.

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The indefinite economic blockade since 1 November 2016, has been imposed by the United Naga Council against the Manipur government's decision to carve out seven new districts.

Supply of essential commodities, including fuel, to the landlocked state has been severely hit due to the indefinite economic blockade on NH-2 (via Dimapur) and NH-37 (via Jiribam) – the two lifelines to the state.

(With inputs from PTI)