New Delhi/Imphal: The Election Commission (EC) of India may cancel polls in four assembly constituencies in Manipur if it receives complaints of violence.
The state goes to the polls on Saturday, with around 17,40,819 voters picking from 279 candidates to fill 60 assembly seats.
“The problem is primarily in four constituencies where insurgent groups are creating problems—one constituency each in Ukhrul and Tamenglong and two in Senapati,” said a senior EC official requesting anonymity.
Of the 2,357 polling stations in the state, only 160 are classified as normal by the Election Commission, with 1,325 termed sensitive and 872 hyper-sensitive.
Security concerns: Election officers distribute electronic voting machines to polling officers on the eve of state assembly elections in Bishnupur district in Manipur.(AP)
“We have been receiving tremendous amount of complaints in these areas from the union home ministry. The chief minister has written to the home minister about these incidents. We have decided in principle that if there is any problem in these constituencies, we will cancel the elections there,” the official said.
Another EC official confirmed the development.
However, the move on the part of the EC has already sparked protests from the Nagaland People’s Front (NPF) which is fighting the state assembly elections for the first time as part of its plan to contest polls from the Naga-inhabited areas of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. NPF is fighting elections in 12 seats in the four hill districts of Senapati, Ukhrul, Chandel and Tamenglong with a significant Naga population.
NPF denied the accusation that it was collaborating with the rebels.
“We completely deny the allegations made against NPF about working with insurgent groups. If there are any such instances, why isn’t the government bringing it to the light and taking strict action?. In fact the Manipur state government machinery is working against the NPF,” said Abu Metha, an NPF leader and press secretary to Neiphiu Rio, Nagaland’s chief minister. “There is no level-playing field. Our candidates and workers are being detained and harassed.”
Of the 60 seats in the assembly, 20 are in the hills with the rest in the valley which is primarily inhabited by Meities or Hindus. The Nagas and Kukis are tribes with a significant presence in the hills. The elections are being held under the security vigil of 350 companies of paramilitary forces for the state, with a total deployment of 62,000 personnel. “NPF has a very strong chance in Senapati and Ukhrul,” said Konsam Ibo Singh, who teaches political science at Manipur University. While the state government had earlier banned Naga separatist leader T. Muivah from visiting his birthplace in the state, Neiphiu Rio has actively campaigned in the Naga-dominated hills districts of Senapati, Ukhrul, Chandel and Tamenglong. These are among the districts that National Socialist Council of Nagalalim (NSCN-IM), wants to be carved out to form the Naga state of Nagalim, along with Naga-dominated areas in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar.
“Why are they only singling out NPF? What about the valley where the insurgent groups have banned Congress. We have been following the democratic process. The Indian state is imposing war on its own people,” Metha added.
The Co-ordinating Committee (CorCom), a coalition of seven valley-based underground outfits, have issued a boycott call on the ruling Congress party. The CorCom has warned it will take violent action against 38 Congress candidates and 1,790 supporters in 38 constituencies.
“The number one issue is territorial integrity. We are completely opposed to Nagalim,” said Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and former Lok Sabha speaker P.A. Sangma. The NCP is contesting 22 seats on its own and is part of an opposition alliance that is contesting in 43 constituencies.
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