Voting on in Chhattisgarh amid Maoist violence (Lead)

November 14th, 2008 - 10:54 am ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyRaipur, Nov 14 (IANS) Two policemen were injured in an explosion, while security forces were engaged in gunbattles with Maoist rebels in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region Friday as the first phase of assembly elections began in 39 constituencies.Polling for Bastar’s 12 seats began at 7 a.m., while it began at other places at 8 a.m. Most polling stations in 39 of the state’s 90 constituencies witnessed low turnout.

However, 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.

Soon after voting started, gunbattles erupted between policemen and Maoist guerillas in Sukma, Kistaram, Konta, Bhairamgarh, Antagarh, Pakhanjoor constituencies. In many remote areas, election officials had to be airlifted to the polling booths.

Officials said two policemen were killed in an explosion at Injeram in Konta constituency, close to the Andhra Pradesh border. Three electronic voting machines (EVM) were stolen from Jadiras locality in the same area.

Although about 65,000 security personnel had been deployed in the Bastar region, Maoists blockaded many roads by felling trees in the interior regions of Bijapur, Dantewada and Konta constituencies.

The second phase of polling in the state will be held Nov 20.

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