Imphal: Campaigning for the first of the two-phase Manipur Assembly election, scheduled for March 4, ended at 3 PM today.
The election is billed as a major test for the Okram Ibobi Singh-led Congress government in the state which has been in power for the last 15 years.
In the first phase, 38 Assembly seats out of 60, covering both the Imphal valley and the hills, will go to the polls.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh were the star campaigners in the first phase, all of whom addressed multiple rallies.
During campaigning, there were bitter exchanges between the Congress and the BJP over the ongoing economic blockade in the state and the Naga Peace Accord.
The Congress accused the BJP of “compromising with the territorial integrity” of Manipur, an allegation the saffron party has vociferously denied.
The Naga Peace Accord, also called the “framework agreement”, was signed between the National Socialist Council of Nagalim-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) and the Centre in August, 2015.
The state has been saddled with an indefinite economic blockade since November 1, 2016, imposed by the United Naga Council, causing immense hardship to the people as the supply of essential commodities, especially fuel, in the land-locked state has choked.
The blockade has been imposed on Manipur’s “lifelines” — national highways 2 and 37, in protest against the state government’s decision to carve out seven new districts from the existing ones.
The blockade has become a major poll plank in the north-eastern state.
The second and final phase of the Assembly polls is scheduled on March 8 and the results will be declared on March 11.