50-52 percent voting in Jharkhand amid Maoist violence (Fourth Lead)

April 23rd, 2009 - 6:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Ranchi, April 23 (IANS) Defying the poll boycott called by Maoist rebels, who unleashed yet another wave of violence in Jharkhand, 50 to 52 percent of the 10.9 million voters exercised their franchise as the second and final phase of polling concluded in the state Thursday afternoon.
Polling was held for eight of the state’s 14 Lok sabha seats along with the by-election for the Jamtara assembly constituency against the backdrop of renewed Maoist violence.

Voter turnout was higher in the regions considered Maoist strongholds, whereas some places with little rebel presence recorded lower polling percentage.

Initial figures show that polling percentage in the eight Lok Sabha seats varied between 42 and 58 percent as people braved Maoist violence as well as the mercury soaring to 42-46 degree Celsius in various parts.

The lowest polling, 42 percent, was reported in Dumka from where Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) chief Shibu Soren is contesting.

Singhbhum, which comes under one of the Maoist-hit areas, recorded the highest polling at 58 percent, said an election official here. The voter turnout in this state capital was 48.

Before voting began at 7 a.m., Maoists triggered landmine blasts near several polling booths, attacked a paramilitary camp and blew up a railway station.

Polling concluded at 3 p.m. for five Lok Sabha seats and at 4 p.m. for the remaining three Lok Sabha seats and Jamtara assembly seat.

A number of people were injured in the attacks in many parts of the state while intermittent gunbattles continued for hours in the forested areas of Jamshedpur and Giridih.

Giving details of the violence, police said three people, including two officials going to polling booths, were injured in a landmine blast triggered by Maoist rebels in Kalamajo village of Giridih district.

Police said the Maoist rebels also triggered an explosion on the road between Giridih and Dumri and cut trees to block it early Thursday.

No one was injured in the second landmine blast near the Bato polling booth of Jamshedpur.

Dramatic scenes were played out in the nearby Ghatshila forest of Jamshedpur district where police used helicopters against the rebels who were exchanging gunfire with security personnel.

Maoist rebels set four trucks on fire at Sonuwa block of West Singhbhum district. Three electronic voting machines (EVMs) kept in a vehicle were also burnt. Polling was disrupted by rebels at four polling booths in the Singhbum constituency.

This was a replay of the April 16 first phase of polling when nine people, including six Border Security Force (BSF) personnel, were killed in Maoist violence.

In seven polling booths in the Dumka, Godda and Rajmahal constituencies, villagers boycotted polling to protest the alleged lack of development there.

Earlier in the morning, Maoist rebels attacked a camp of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in West Singhbhum district, where a gunbattle between the militants and security lasted for four hours.

Late Wednesday, the guerrillas blew up the Chiyanki railway station in Palamau district and bombed the outer cabin of the complex. The cabin man and porter have been missing since the attack, officials said.

The violence came after cadres of the banned Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) hijacked a passenger train in Latehar district Wednesday. They released it four hours later.

Of the eight Lok Sabha constituencies where polling was held, four each are held by the Congress and JMM.

There are 164 candidates in the fray including three former chief ministers Soren, Arjun Munda and Madhu Koda as well as central Food Processing Minister Subodh Kant Sahay.

Munda, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate, is fighting from Jamshedpur. Koda is fighting as an independent in Singhbhum and is locked in a triangular fight with the Congress and JMM.

Soren is fighting the Lok Sabha poll from Dumka along with the Jamtara assembly by-election.

Sahay is in a direct fight with BJP’s Ram Tahal Chaudhary in Ranchi.

Dhanbad has both the highest number of contestants (32) and voters (1.7 million).

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