Congress leader killed, low turnout as violence mars Chhattisgarh poll (Second Lead)

November 14th, 2008 - 12:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyRaipur, Nov 14 (IANS)Three policemen were injured in a landmine blast, while several low-intensity explosions ripped through Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region Friday as the first phase of assembly elections began in 39 constituencies.Polling for the region’s 12 seats started at 7 a.m., while it began at other places at 8 a.m. Most polling stations witnessed low turnout with people scared to come out and vote following the Thursday night murder of Trinath Thakur, the Dantewada block unit chief of the Congress.

Dantewada District Superintendent of Police Rahul Sharma said: “Rebels slit his throat and he died on the spot due to excessive bleeding.”

In Konta and Dantewada, in Bastar that comprises five districts, voting was stalled for a while after some electronic voting machines were looted.

Soon after voting started, gunbattles erupted between policemen and Maoist guerrillas in about 15 places in Sukma, Kistaram, Konta, Bhairamgarh, Antagarh, Pakhanjoor, Bijarpur, Dantewada and Antagarh constituencies.

Officials said three policemen were injured in a landmine blast triggered by rebels at Injeram in Konta constituency, close to the Andhra Pradesh border.

Despite the presence of 65,000 policemen, including paramilitary forces, the Maoist guerrillas managed to block roads leading to polling booths in over 50 places.

Huge trees were laid on the roads to prevent movement of vehicles. As a result, election officials had to be airlifted to the polling booths in many areas.

At a few polling booths in Rajnandgaon, where Chief Minister Raman Singh is contesting on a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ticket, long queues mostly of women voters were seen much before polling began.

About 6.4 million of the state’s 15.2 million voters are tipped to exercise their franchise Friday for 39 seats included 12 of Bastar region at 8,883 balloting centres to decide the fortunes of 379 candidates, including 36 women.

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

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