IMPHAL, Jan 28 (IANS): At least six people, including a suspected Naga militant and a paramilitary trooper, were killed in violence during elections to the Manipur Assembly Saturday. The state recorded 70 percent polling till 6 p.m. and voting was still continuing.
Police sources confirmed six people were killed during poll violence in the state.
A major tragedy was averted in Sagolband constituency after police and security forces recovered an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). It was later defused.
The state election office said that although the polling was officially to end at 3 p.m., the polling officers would wait till those already in queues at the booths have cast their votes.
"So far, we have registered over 70 percent polling and it is still continuing," a poll official told IANS.
"The voting is still continuing and we are going to wait till the last voter in the queues casts the vote. It is taking more time as every voter is being photographed after casting his vote for transparency and to stop proxy voting," he said, adding this was being done for the first time in India.
Live webcasting was also done at 60 polling booths in the Imphal valley, the official said and added that the poll panel can monitor the whole process of voting through it. This has been done for the first time in Manipur.
The violence took place in Chandel district as a group of armed militants tried to capture a polling booth in remote Chakpi Karong village but were thwarted by security personnel. A Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) trooper was killed and five others were seriously injured in the ensuing gun battle.
The injured, who included a suspected Naga militant and a woman voter and three other polling officials, succumbed on way to the hospital.
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 EVM at a polling booth. This caused security personnel to open fire but no one was injured.
Voting took place amid tight security at 2,357 polling booths, of which 875 were termed hyper-sensitive.
"All precautions have been taken to ensure free and fair polls," chief electoral officer P.C. Lawmkunga told IANS earlier in the morning.
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 area in 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.