IMPHAL, Jan 28 (IANS): At least five people, including a suspected Naga militant, were killed in violence during the Manipur Assembly polls Saturday that started on a peaceful note. The state recorded 65 percent polling till 3.45 p.m.
The state election office said that although the polling was supposed to end at 3 p.m., they would wait till those already in queues outside the booths had cast their votes.
A group of armed militants tried to capture a polling booth in remote Chakpi Karong village in Chandel district but were thwarted by security personnel who resorted to firing. A Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel was killed and four others were seriously injured in the ensuing gun battle.
The injured, who included a suspected Naga militant and a woman, succumbed on way to the hospital. Barring the militant, the other three were polling officials deployed at the booth.
Polling started at 7 a.m. and continued peacefully till noon with people turning out in huge numbers to elect a 60-member assembly despite a string of bomb blasts during the past one week.
In Tipaimukh constituency also a minor incident of violence was recorded when some irate electors damaged an electronic voting machine at a polling booth. This led to security personnel opening fire but no one was injured.
Voting is taking place amid tight security at 2,357 polling booths, of which 875 have been termed hyper-sensitive.
"All precautions have been taken to ensure free and fair polls," chief electoral officer P.C. Lawmkunga told IANS, adding that video cameras have been placed in all polling stations to prevent proxy voting or any kind of manipulation.
Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh and his legislator wife Landhoni Devi cast their vote around 7.30 a.m. at a polling booth in Thoubal Aphokpam Lower Primary School in Khangabok constituency. Landhoni Devi is the sitting legislator from Khangabok.
"I am expecting that the Congress party would secure around 45 seats. But 35 is the minimum number we are winning," the chief minister told IANS after casting his vote.
The two-time chief minister of the state said over 80 percent voting is expected across the state.
"People will come out despite the militants' threat as it is a democratic exercise that comes after every five years and no one wants to miss it," he said.
In addition to the state's police forces, the state election authority has deployed 350 companies of central paramilitary forces for smooth conduct of the election.
A day ahead of the polls, suspected militants triggered a blast in the Manipur capital at Thangmeiban Iikamdewan Leiki locality under Imphal West district. One person received minor injuries in the Friday bombing.
On Thursday, a blast took place just 2 km from Kangla Fort, where the state's official Republic Day function was celebrated. No one was injured. Militants exploded two powerful bombs in Kakwa area in Imphal West district Wednesday night but there was no casualty.
On Jan 22, militants triggered a powerful explosion outside the residence of I. Hemochandra Singh, the speaker of the outgoing assembly and a Congress party candidate in the state. One person was killed in the blast.