Manipur Elections: EC Orders FIR Against Eight Newspapers; Poll-Related Violence in Churachandpur

As voting for the 11th legislative assembly elections ends in Manipur today, a round-up of poll-related stories from the northeastern state.

The two accused in the assault case in Churachandpur have been taken into custody. Credit: Special arrangement

The two accused in the assault case in Churachandpur have been taken into custody. Credit: Special arrangement

New Delhi: Even as the re-polling in 34 booths spread across three districts of Manipur will bring down the curtain on voting for the 11th state legislative assembly today, here is a round-up of some poll-related stories from the state.

Poll-related violence in Churachandpur district on March 7

The Churachandpur district of Manipur, which went to polls on March 4, saw a bout of tension after two people were severely assaulted, allegedly by supporters of the National People’s Party (NPP) candidate Phungzathang Tonsing.

While the injured, Thangsuanlal and Thangkhanlun, said to be supporters of the North East India Development Party, have been admitted to the local district hospital, a 12-hour bandh was called by the Young Paite Association in the town on March 6 condemning the incident.

A former state Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Phungzathang, recently resigned from the party to contest the March 4 elections as a NPP candidate.

According to local reports, on March 3, a vehicle was hired by NPP supporters allegedly to capture the Lamjang polling booth. On reaching the booth, they allegedly ransacked the booth. The act was recorded on a mobile phone and was later circulated on Facebook following which the supporters allegedly began looking for the user. Two people suspected of first sharing the video on social media were thereafter severely beaten by them. The wife of one of them was also assaulted on March 5. Police has so far arrested two people in relation to the case.

After the incident, angry villagers of Lamzang gathered at the district hospital before setting the house of the village chief on fire for allegedly supporting the party. On March 8, the mob also tried to enter the house of Phungzathang, leading police to lob tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them.

“The situation is under control now and security personnel have been deployed in large numbers as a preventive measure,” Churachandpur SP Rakesh Balwal told PTI on March 8.

As per Election Commission orders, re-polling in nine booths is taking place in Churachandpur district on March 9.

BJP Arunachal Pradesh chief travelling from poll-bound Manipur intercepted at Guwahati airport with Rs 10.5 lakh in cash

The president of BJP‘s Arunachal Pradesh unit, Tapir Gao, was reportedly “intercepted” at the Guwahati airport by income tax department personnel on March 7 with Rs 10.5 lakh in cash. Gao was returning from poll-bound Manipur, where his party is engaged in a close contest with the ruling Congress.

Even though the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which handles security at the airports, said it stopped Gao as the cash was “beyond the permissible limit set by the Election Commission,” Gao claimed it was his personal money and had nothing to do with his party and the Manipur elections.

Tapir Gao Photo- Facebook

President of BJP’s Arunachal Pradesh unit Tapir Gao. Credit: Facebook

However, media reports quoting sources in the income tax department in Guwahati said the cash was declared by Gao as funds under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana.

As per Election Commission rules, a candidate in Manipur has an election expenditure limit of Rs 20 lakh and can withdraw cash amounting to Rs 2 lakh per week till March 11. Gao is not a poll candidate.

Local news reports said Gao was first stopped by CISF personnel at the Imphal airport. They, however, allowed him to board his flight with the cash but informed their counterparts at the Guwahati airport about it.

The CISF commandant at the Guwahati airport, M. Haokip, told reporters, “We have intercepted Gao as he was carrying cash beyond permissible limits of the Election Commission. Therefore, we have informed the air intelligence wing of the income tax department which further took action on the cash.”

EC orders FIR against Manipur BJP office bearers and eight newspapers for violating model code of conduct

On March 4, the Election Commission (EC) ordered the registration of an FIR against some office bearers of the Manipur unit of the BJP along with eight local newspapers for publishing an advertisement without taking prior approval of its monitoring committee.

As per a rule set by the EC after the Bihar elections, a party advertisement seeking votes can be published by a newspaper 48 hours before voting takes place only after acquiring prior permission of its media certification and monitoring committee. The new rule was enforced after the BJP brought out some controversial advertisements during the Bihar polls.

The advertisements were published in the newspapers on the day the first phase of elections were held in the state. The newspapers named in the FIR were Imphal Free Press, The People’s Chronicle, The Sangai Express and its Manipuri edition Poknapham, Naharolgi, Thoudang, Ichel Express and Hueiyen Lanpao.

On March 7, the state BJP wrote to the All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union assuring “all legal help” to the newspaper owners to fight the case. The letter accused the state EC of “creating confusion” by not attaching copies of the content of three of the four applications of the party it approved as per the rule.

“Out of the four applications, three were approved by the office of the CEO, Manipur. The MCMC certificates provided by and duly signed by the additional CEO was a one-page worded letter approving three contents. The certificates did not mention which of the four contents were approved. As per the methodology under the model code of conduct, the MCMC certificate needs to attach a copy of the content approved. Since this was not done by the additional CEO, it created confusion,” the letter said.

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