Over 60 percent voter turnout in first phase, 19 dead

April 16th, 2009 - 10:28 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 16 (IANS) The first phase of the 2009 Lok Sabha elections recorded 58-62 percent voter turnout but was marred by large-scale Maoist violence that claimed the lives of 19 people, including 10 police personnel, the Election Commission said Thursday.
Giving preliminary statistics compiled from 15 states and two union territories where over 143 million people were eligible to vote in the first round, a poll panel official said that the voting percentage ranged from a low 46 percent in Bihar to a high 86 in Lakshadweep island. Nagaland also witnessed a high turnout of 84 percent.

“By and large the elections were peaceful. Overall poll percentage was between 58 to 62 percent. Considering the complexities and difficulties, the elections were largely peaceful,” Deputy Election Commissioner R. Balakrishnan told reporters here after the day’s balloting ended.

He said there were sporadic incidents of violence blamed on Maoists in some states - Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand - that left 19 people dead, including nine civilians and 10 policemen, and many more injured.

“There were incidences of attacks on police personnel, poll personnel and polling stations. The central police forces and the state police force handled it very affectively,” Balakrishnan said.

Maoists had called for poll boycott in some states and warned that they would chop off the hands of those who went to vote.

Balakrishnan praised the security personnel for their “commendable job” in tackling the Maoist violence.

He said the five-phase elections were designed keeping in mind the “problems and challenges”.

He said the picture would be clear late Thursday night or Friday morning.

Among the states that witnessed high polling percent were Lakshadweep (86 percent), Nagaland (84 percent) Manipur (in the range of 66 to 68 percent), Andhra Pradesh (65 percent), Orissa (63 percent) Arunachal Pradesh (62 percent), Meghalaya (65 percent), Assam (62 percent), Andaman and Nicobar Islands (62 percent), Kerala (over 60 percent), Mizoram (52 percent).

Balakrishnan said there could be slight change in the figure in Uttar Pradesh, but the tentative figure was put out between 48 to 50 percent.

In Jammu and Kashmir, the turnout was 48 percent, while in Maharashtra it was 54 percent. “Jammu and Kashmir elections were peaceful and the voting percentage jumped from 44.9 percent in 2004 to 48 percent in 2009,” he said.

Polling in violence-hit Chhattisgarh was 51 percent, in Jharkhand 50 percent and in Bihar 46 percent.

Kandhamal district in Orissa, which had witnessed large-scale violence against Christians last year, recorded a tentative percent of 65 percent, the poll panel said.

Balakrishnan said to minimise violence in Maoist affected areas, the commission had made changes in the locations of polling booths, poll timing as well as deployment of security personnel.

He said 71 polling stations witnessed Maoist violence, while 86 saw “various types of disturbances”. The total number of polling stations was 185,552. Another 76,000 polling stations faced Maoist threat, he said.

Violence was witnessed in Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Chhattisgarh. Seven states were free of incidents of violence - Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh, Balakrishnan added.

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