Imphal, Feb 28 (PTI) A total of 9.9 per cent of 12.09 lakh voters exercised their franchise in the first two hours of voting in 38 constituencies in the first phase of assembly elections in Manipur on Monday.

At least one person was injured in a clash between members of two political parties in a remote place in Churachandpur district, police said.

An EVM was damaged in the clash. It has been replaced and voting will recommence soon, an election official said.

Voting across the state began at 7 AM in 1,721 polling stations in five districts amid tight security and strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols. A total of 173 candidates, including 15 women, are in the fray.

All-women personnel are conducting voting in 381 polling stations. PWD personnel are manning a polling station in Saikot assembly seat in Churachandpur.

Governor La Ganesan and Chief Minister N Biren Singh were among the early voters.

The governor, after casting his vote at a polling booth in T G Higher Secondary School in Sagolband assembly constituency in Imphal West district, appealed to all eligible voters in Manipur to exercise their franchise.

The chief minister and his wife cast their votes in a model polling station in Heingang constituency in Imphal East district. Singh urged people to maintain peace.

Prominent candidates in the fray include the chief minister, Assembly Speaker Y Khemchand Singh, Deputy Chief Minister and NPP candidate Yumnam Joykumar and Manipur Congress president N Lokesh Singh.

Of the 38 seats, 10 constituencies are in Imphal East, 13 in Imphal West, six each in Bishnupur and Churachandpur, and three in Kangpokpi district. Nine seats are reserved for Scheduled Tribes and one for Scheduled Castes.

Chief Electoral Officer Rajesh Agarwal has said that out of the total 173 candidates, 39 have criminal antecedents.

The BJP has fielded candidates in all the 38 seats, followed by Congress with 35 contestants, NPP with 27, JD (U) with 28, Shiv Sena with seven, RPI (Athawale) with six, LJP (Ram Vilas) with three, and Kuki National Assembly and Kuki People’s Alliance with two each. Eighteen Independents are also in the fray.

Hours before the assembly polls got underway, Congress had on Sunday night expelled its candidate in Wangoi constituency, Salam Joy Singh, from the primary membership of the party with immediate effect on disciplinary grounds.

As many as 6,884 polling personnel have been deployed in the polls. Arrangements for webcasting are in place and micro-observers have been deployed at sensitive polling stations.

Central forces along with state security forces are conducting patrolling and area domination in the five districts to boost confidence among the voters, election officials said.

Photo Voter Slip has been discontinued as identity proof and voters are required to produce documents approved by the Election Commission of India such as EPIC card, Aadhaar card, MNREGA job card, driving license and PAN card.

The BJP had formed the government in Manipur in 2017 with the support of the National People’s Party (NPP), Naga People’s Front (NPF), and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).

However, the saffron party is contesting all the seats alone this time.

The Congress has formed an alliance with CPI, CPI(M), Forward Bloc, RSP and Janata Dal (Secular).

The grand old party had emerged as the single largest party winning 28 of the 60 seats in the 2017 state polls.

The voting for the remaining 22 seats in the 60-member House will take place in the second phase on March 5 while the counting of votes will be held on March 10.

All polling stations have been sanitised and circles have been marked outside the polling booths to enable the voters to maintain social distancing while they stand in a queue.

Wearing masks, using hand sanitiser and conducting thermal screening are among the other COVID protocols to be carried out at the polling booths.

Polling will end at 4 PM and COVID-19 patients can vote between 3 PM and 4 PM.

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