51 percent voting amid violence in Chhattisgarh (Fourth Lead)

April 16th, 2009 - 8:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Raipur, April 16 (IANS) At least 51 percent of Chhattisgarh’s 15.4 million electorate Thursday turned out to vote in the state’s 11 Lok Sabha seats amid widespread violence by Maoist guerrillas that left five polling staff and two policemen dead.
According to official figures, 51 percent voting was recorded in 20,967 polling booths by the time polling ended.

Officials said the figures may go up after the data were collected from many far off polling booths.

State electoral officer Sunil Kumar Kujur said the state’s Durg, Korba and Raigarh constituencies recorded the highest average of 55 percent each, followed by Bilaspur, Rajnandgaon, Mahasamund and Jangir with 53, 52, 51 and 50 percent, respectively.

Around 47 percent voters exercised their franchise in the capital Raipur. Bastar and Surguja each saw 46 voting percentage, while 45 percent voting was recorded in Kanker.

A total of 178 candidates are in the fray but the main contest is between the state’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress that heads the government at the centre.

“The poll was largely marred by violence. Guerrillas blew up a jeep carrying seven polling officials in the state’s western Rajnandgaon district in which five poll personnel were killed on the spot,” Girdhari Nayak, additional director general of police, told IANS.

“Two CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) jawans of the 41st battalion were shot dead and four others injured in Dantewada district,” Nayak said.

In the attack in Rajnandgaon, some 125 km from here, two polling officials received multiple splinter injuries and were battling for life in a government hospital.

Maoists struck at a CRPF team in Dantewada district’s Gadiras police station, some 480 km south of Raipur, and gunned down two troopers and injured at least four of their colleagues.

The widespread violence came despite the police claim that they had made “heavy security arrangements to handle insurgents and keep aerial surveillance on the 250-odd polling booths in restive areas to track the guerrillas’ movements”.

Nayak said heavily armed Maoists engaged security officials at about a dozen places in Bastar and Kanker as soon as voting began at 7 a.m.

Police officials said dozens of polling booths in interiors of Bastar, Kanker and Rajnandgaon wore a deserted look, as the rebels had warned voters that their hands would be chopped off if they voted.

Rebels had blocked roads in interiors of Bijapur district’s Bhopalpatanam and Mader area and also in Antagarh in Kanker district with heavy wooden logs placed on roads.

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