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IMPHAL, March 7 2017: Redoubtable rights activist Irom Sharmila will take on Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh in the second and last phase of polling in Manipur tomorrow in 22 Assembly constituencies.
The first phase of the Assembly polls, covering 38 seats, registered an impressive voter turnout and all eyes are now trained on the Thoubal constituency where Sharmila is pitted against the chief minister.
The 22 constituencies are spread across the valley districts of Thoubal and the hill districts of Ukhrul, Chandel, Tamenglong and Senapati. A total of 98 candidates are contesting in these constituencies.
The voting will start at 7 AM at 1,151 polling stations amid tight security.
The Election Commission has made elaborate security arrangement by deploying 280 companies of central forces for a free and fair conduct of the elections.
The state has a 19,02,562-strong electorate comprising of 9,28,573 male and 9,73,989 female voters. There are around 45,642 new voters this time.
The second phase will seal the fate of almost all the big names in the state's politics such as Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, Deputy Chief Minister M Gaikhangam, rights activist-turned politician Irom Chanu Sharmila and others.
The elections in Manipur this time are billed as a crucial test for the 15-year-old Congress regime which is facing a stiff challenge from the BJP.
In the first phase, all political parties in their campaigns focused on the continuing economic blockade by the United Naga Council and the state government's inability to lift it.
The other important issues exercising the minds of voters are the alleged lack of development, massive corruption, misappropriation of funds and worsening law and order situation in the state.
The BJP leaders criticised the ruling Congress for its alleged failure to solve the over three-month-long economic blockade paralysing the two national highways of the land-locked state.
They flagged the state government's alleged failure to provide basic amenities to the people of the state, particularly the supply of potable water while the Congress maintained that during its 15-year rule it had implemented key development projects and improved the power supply.
All eyes are on Sharmila who broke her 16-year fast last year and floated a party of her own — the 'Peoples' Resurgence and Justice Alliance' to fight the Assembly elections in her quest to get the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act — AFSPA repealed.