Voting for first phase of Chhattisgarh polls ends amid violence

November 14th, 2008 - 7:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Raipur, Nov 14 (IANS) Polling for the first phase of assembly elections in 39 constituencies in Chhattisgarh ended at 5 p.m. Friday with low turnout in the insurgency-hit Bastar region compared to the rest of the state. The voting for Bastar’s 12 seats, which was held between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m., was marred by violence with low turnout in most constituencies. But it picked up during the closing hours despite road blockades by Maoist guerrillas.

In contrast, the election exercise went off smoothly in the constituencies outside the region. There was brisk polling in the districts of Durg, Rajnandgaon, Mahasamund, Dhamtari and Kabirdharm.

While the final voting figures were being put together, over 35 percent people had exercised their franchise by 2.30 p.m.

Dantewada district police chief Rahul Sharma said: “Maoists triggered a string of explosions and fired upon policemen at dozens of places in which four cops were injured at two separate places in Konta and Dantewada constituencies.” Konta and Dantewada are in the Bastar region.

Officials said violence disrupted polling at 17 booths in the Bastar region where repolling is likely to be ordered. But they also claimed the voters did eventually come out to vote, despite the apprehensions during the day after violence in several areas.

“The voters defied the Maoists and showed courage to come out in Bastar region’s five districts, though polling was disrupted at 17 booths because of firing and electronic voting machines (EVMs) were looted,” said R.S. Vishwakarma, Bastar commissioner.

Friday’s polling sealed the electoral fortunes of Chief Minister Raman Singh (Rajnandgaon), opposition leader and Congress candidate Mahendra Karma (Dantewada) and assembly Speaker Premprakash Pandey, besides four ministers.

About 6.4 million of the state’s 15.2 million voters were eligible to exercise their franchise in 8,883 polling booths Friday to decide the fortunes of 379 candidates, including 36 women.

The second phase of polling for the other 51 seats will be held Nov 20.

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