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Political parties welcome Manipur poll schedule

Imphal, Jan 8 (IANS) Political parties, both ruling and opposition on Saturday, welcomed the Manipur assembly election schedule and are confident of winning the polls to be held in two phases -- on February 27 and March 3.

The counting of votes will take place on March 10.

Election Commission officials in Imphal said that similar to this year, the elections to the 60-member Manipur assembly were held in two phases on March 4 and 8 in 2017 and they are fully geared up to conduct the upcoming polls following the poll panel guidelines and Covid protocols.

The leaders of the ruling BJP and the main opposition Congress while welcoming the election schedule have expressed confidence of victory.

Union Minister Pratima Bhowmik, who is one of the election in-charge of BJP for Manipur, said that her party is fully ready for the polls and will win with a landslide victory.

"As the Election Commission imposed restrictions on the physical campaign, we would undertake a massive virtual campaign at the earliest. All the central leaders in-charges of Manipur are now in the state. We would discuss everything including the strategies with the state leaders and act accordingly," Bhowmik told IANS.

She said that Union Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Bhupender Yadav, Assam's Urban Development Minister Ashok Singhal, BJP's central observer for Manipur and party's national spokesman Sambit Patra are now in Imphal and they are discussing the next course of action with the state leaders including Chief Minister N. Biren Singh.

Manipur Congress spokesman Ningombam Bupenda Meitei welcoming the ECI's poll dates announcement, emphasised on level playing field to all the political parties and effective implementation of ECI's orders and directives on ground.

"I am confident that Congress will be back to power not only in Manipur, but also in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Goa," the Congress leader told IANS.

After 15 years, Congress was ousted by the BJP-led alliance in the 2017 Assembly polls, despite emerging as the single largest party with 28 seats. But the saffron party, which had bagged 21 seats, stitched together a coalition government with the support of four National People's Party (NPP) MLAs, four Naga People's Front (NPF) members, the lone Trinamool Congress MLA and an Independent member.

The NPP headed by Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma, however, already announced to contest the elections on their own this time and would field candidates in at least 40 seats.

The political parties have already started their campaign for the ensuing elections in Manipur. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Manipur and addressed a public gathering at the Hapta Kangjeibung ground in Imphal after inaugurating 13 projects and laying foundation for nine projects with a total investment of Rs 4,815 crore.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who was scheduled to visit Manipur on Thursday and Friday, cancelled his trip, instead virtually inaugurated and laid foundation for 29 projects worth of Rs 2,450 crore, from Delhi.

BJP President J.P. Nadda and Union Minister Bhupender Yadav, who is the party's election in-charge for the northeastern state, and many other Central ministers and leaders have already visited the poll-bound state and addressed several public rallies in different parts of Manipur.