Voting began on Wednesday in the second of the three-phased assembly elections in Manipur amid heavy security, officials said.
An election official said that people in large numbers queued up in front of polling stations well before voting opened at 7.30 am in 29 of Manipur's total 60 assembly constituencies. Polling ends at 3.30 pm.
"People lined up to vote well before polling started in many places. The mood is one of enthusiasm," an election official said.
Some 7,38,679 voters are eligible to cast their franchise to decide the fate of 155 candidates in 29 assembly constituencies in the insurgency-ravaged districts of Imphal East, Imphal West, and Bishnupur. The total number of voters in Manipur is 1.7 million out of nearly 2.4 million people.
Authorities have identified 181 polling centers as hypersensitive and 646 as sensitive. "We have deployed adequate number of police and paramilitary troopers for the polling and we hope to have a free and fair vote," a police official said.
Voting for the final phase for 12 seats would be held on Feb 23. Counting of votes begins on Feb 27. The first phase of voting held on Feb 8 witnessed 80 per cent turnout.
Wednesday's vote would decide the fate of three former chief ministers, Rajkumar Dorendra, Wahengbam Nipamacha and Radhabinod Koijam, besides at least a dozen ministers of the outgoing cabinet. Former central minister Thounaojam Chaoba is also in the fray.
"I am all set to vote for the first time," said an excited Bimala Devi, a college student in Imphal.
The battle lines are drawn with the ruling Congress party taking on regional challengers, the Manipur Peoples Party, with the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958, dominating the agendas of all political parties.
The AFPSA, an anti-terror law that provides sweeping powers to the security forces deployed in the region, is the focal point in the electioneering - almost all the opposition parties have been demanding the repealing of the act saying the 'draconian legislation' was a slur on democracy as it infringes on basic human rights of the people in Manipur.