50 percent voting amid Maoists violence in Bihar (Third Lead)

April 16th, 2009 - 7:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Patna, April 16 (IANS) Bihar recorded nearly 50 percent voter turnout in the first phase of general elections Thursday amid violence by Maoist rebels, who killed two security personnel and attacked polling stations in Gaya.
Nearly 50 percent voters of the 17.6 million electorate exercised their franchise in the first round, according to official estimates after polling ended in 13 of the state’s 40 Lok Sabha constituencies.

Some incidents of violence, clashes, firing between rival groups and attempts to capture polling stations were reported from Gaya, Maharajganj, Jehanabad, Karakat, Aurangabad and Jamui districts, although the police had shoot at sight orders.

In Gaya, constable Vishambhar Choudhary and Home Guard Ramdeo Khair were killed in a Maoist attack on a polling station. Two women voters in the queue were injured and had to be taken to hospital.

A landmine blast by suspected Maoist guerrillas injured district president of Janata Dal-United (JD-U) in Jamui district.

Some journalists were attacked by booth grabbers in Jehanabad. In Maharajganj, firing between two rival gangs was reported.

After slow start in initial hours, the voter turnout picked up in the afternoon despite scorching sun and fears of violence, a state election official said.

According to an official, 48 to 50 percent voters cast their votes till the late afternoon, as long queues of voters were seen at different polling centres in all the 13 constituencies.

Polling began at 7 a.m., and by 10 a.m. most constituencies had recorded five to eight percent turnout. Only one or two of the constituencies saw nine to 10 percent of the voters exercising their franchise. The average rose to 15 to 18 percent by noon.

Reports reaching here said residents in dozens of villages boycotted the elections in at least over six constituencies protesting lack of development.

Most Maoist-affected areas of the state went to the polls Thursday. The rebels of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) have called for boycott of the election.

The constituencies that polled in the first phase are Gaya, Jehanabad, Aurangabad, Nawada, Ara, Buxar, Karakat, Maharajganj, Sasaram, Jamui, Saran, Siwan and Gopalganj.

The state administration had taken adequate measures to check violence during the polls, Bihar police chief D.N. Gautam said.

He said 110,000 police personnel, including central paramilitary forces, were deployed at 19,738 polling booths. Two Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters were used for aerial surveillance.

At stake is electoral fortunes of 223 candidates, including Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad in Saran, central ministers Meira Kumar in Sasaram and Kanti Singh in Karakat.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Rajiv Pratap Rudy, JD-U’s Prabhunath Singh and Congress’s Nikhil Kumar are also in the poll fray.

In Siwan and Nawada constituencies, jailed RJD MP Mohammad Shahabuddin’s wife Heena Sahab and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) MP Surajbhan Singh’s wife Veena Devi, respectively, are trying their luck.

Both Shahabuddin and Surajbhan Singh, known criminals-turned-politicians, have been convicted for murder and have been barred from the polls.

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