Guwahati, March 4: Polling for first phase of the Manipur Assembly Elections 2017 came to an end with an unprecedented 84 per cent voter turnout on Saturday. The first phase of the assembly elections consisted of 38 assembly constituencies spread over five districts. While voters were seen swarming in the polling booths across all the five districts, namely Bishnupur, Churachandpur, Imphal East, Imphal West and Senapati, but the voter turnout figure amid all chaos the state has been engulfed in, underlines the confidence of the people in the Indian democratic system.

The first phase of the assembly elections began at 7 AM and ended at 3 PM on Saturday following which news agency ANI reported that the voter turnout in Imphal East was 87 per cent. However, in the total tally of all constituencies in the first phase, the figure was stated to be approximately 84 per cent.

Given that Manipur has been crippled by an economic blockade called by the United Naga Council (UNC) since November 1, many experts were of the opinion that the elections might as well be affected by the UNC’s blockade. But today’s number, which has been unprecedented in many sense, showed that the first phase of the assembly election was a major success. People were seen standing queue to vote from early morning.

As per reports, the Phase 1 assembly elections in Manipur were held peacefully, unlike the 2012 election where attacks reportedly killed 5. However, in an isolated incident of violence, Erendro Leichombam, the only candidate from Irom Sharmila’s People’s Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA) in the first phase was attacked by unknown miscreants. He was however, immediately rushed to the JNIMS hospital in Imphal.

The first phase of the assembly polls reflected a very important fact that the spirit of the people when it comes to voting cannot be shunned by any disruptive force. However, which way the votes will sway is a question to keep guessing as this election season there are more than just political powerplay.

The ruling Congress government will obviously aim to continue ruling in the state, but it seems all the opposition parties have decided to oust the Congress from Manipur. One of the strongest force against the Congress is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which has settled for nothing less than a full offensive stance when it comes to opposing the Congress. With chants of ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ (Congress-free India), the BJP has hit upon the issues of extra-judicial killings and corruption charges against the Congress. BJP also reportedly has huge support of the Naga People’s Front (NPF) and hence sections of the Naga population in Manipur. The BJP is also considered to be supported by the Meiteis, who are in majority and given that the BJP leaders have been boasting of how they can end the economic blockade in a day, it is evident that they are trying to garner the support of the maximum number of people in Manipur.

Similarly, Irom Sharmila’s PRJA, although fielded only one candidate this year, has been rooting given her stand against the Armed Forced (Special Powers Act) and her outspoken rivalry with chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh. Although she seems to be extraordinarily silent regarding the economic blockade, but it is also evident that she in this election is not targeting to form a government but rather consolidate for herself and her party a place in the sphere of Manipur politics.

Manipur will vote for the second phase of the assembly elections on March 8 and the votes will be counted on March 11.

Although the UNC has refused to lift the economic blockade, a crippling phantom haunting the state, today’s spirit of the poll shows that Manipur still has what they need most, Hope.