The election campaign for the second and final phase of blockade-hit northeastern state Manipur has ended. 22 remaining seats of the 60-member legislative assembly will go to polls on March 8. Earlier, in the first phase 38 seats went to polls on Saturday.
A total 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.
Fate of almost all big names in the 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.
Sharmila, who fasted for 16 years for repeal of AFSPA from the state, is in the election fray for the first time and is pitted against Ibobi Singh himself in Thoubal constituency.
The first phase of voting when 38 seats went to the polls took place on March 4 and recorded a huge voter turnout of 84 per cent. The result will be declared on March 11.
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. The task of spearheading the Congress campaign was left to party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who addressed a rally here on February 28.
While, the BJP had put in a massive effort to wrest the state from Congress and spreading its feet in the northeast. It has already made inroads in once a Congress bastion by having a government in Arunachal Pradesh and winning Assam last year.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and BJP chief Amit Shah had addressed rallies in Manipur.
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.
The indefinite economic blockade since November 1, 2016, has been imposed by United Naga Council against Manipur government’s decision to carve out seven new districts from existing ones.
Supply of essential commodities, including fuel to the landlocked state has been severely hit in the indefinite economic blockade on NH2 (via Dimapur) and NH 37 (via Jiribam) — the two lifelines to the state.
(With inputs from the PTI)