Moderate to brisk polling in Bengal, landmine blast injures one (Lead)

April 30th, 2009 - 1:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Kolkata, April 30 (IANS) A security personnel was injured when suspected Maoist rebels triggered a landmine blast in West Bengal’s Purulia district, but the first phase of parliamentary elections in the state continued uninterrupted in 14 seats with moderate to brisk polling in the early hours.
“One central paramilitary force jawan was injured in a low-intensity landmine blast at Balarampur area in Purulia. He got some minor injury in his leg,” West Bengal Inspector General (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia told IANS.

Two suspicious boxes were found in West Midnapore’s Maoist-dominated Pirakata forest region triggering panic among the voters who refused to go to polling stations.

Kanojia said the police recovered two boxes of firecrackers from the area and no major explosives were found in the containers.

According to police sources, some Maoist posters were also found which called for a vote boycott in the three western districts of Bankura, Purulia and Midnapore (West).

A total of 16 million people are eligible to vote for 134 candidates, including nine women, in the state.

The election office here could not give exact turnout figures with the West Bengal chief electoral officer Debashis Sen saying: “We are collating the information received from different districts.”

To ensure a peaceful and fair election, the Election Commission has deployed nearly 220 companies of central forces across these 14 parliamentary constituencies.

This apart, authorities have also requisitioned three Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters for constant air surveillance in the three Maoist-hit districts.

In Maoist dominated Lalgarh of Midnapore West district, where the tribals have been on a collision course with the administration over alleged police atrocities, around 49 polling booths have been arranged for over 35,000 to 40,000 voters in four villages in Lalgarh. The residents there had earlier opposed the entry of the police into the region.

The booths have been moved five kilometres away with the poll officials arranging buses to ferry voters.

The Election Commission has also sealed all inter-state borders with Jharkhand, Assam and Bihar to prevent the ultras from sneaking in from the neighbouring states.

Reports from Siliguri said there was a poll boycott in two booths of Darjeeling district while enthusiastic queues of people were seen in the hills under a thick blanket of fog and intermittent rains Thursday.

Fifteen to 20 percent votes were cast in the first two hours of the polls in the Darjeeling Lok Sabha constituency from where Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) heavyweight Jaswant Singh is trying his luck.

But, following a vote boycott call given by the tribal body Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad (ABAVP), not a single voter lined up at the Raikhota SSK and Bijlimoni Tea Estate booths under Phansidewa Assembly constituency of Silguri sub-division.

ABAVP called for the poll boycott protesting against the state government not heeding its four-point charter of demands including creation of a new Lok Sabha constituency comprising the foothills of the district and opening of closed tea gardens.

West Bengal has 42 Lok Sabha seats. While 17 seats will go to the polls May 7, the voters in other 11 parliamentary constituencies will exercise their franchise May 13.

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