Friday, April 17, 2009

Sixty per cent turnout in first round of polls amidst naxal attacks

New Delhi (PTI): An estimated 60 per cent of the 14.30 crore voters exercised their franchise in the first phase of Lok Sabha polls in 124 constituencies on Thursday even as largescale violence by Naxals in four states killed 18 people, including five poll officials and 10 security personnel.

Simultaneous elections to assemblies in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa also drew about 60 voters' response with the polling on Thursday covering more than half of the constituencies in the two states.

Heavily-armed Naxals went into action shortly after voting began this morning, blasting landmine targeting a bus ferrying Border Security Force personnel in Jharkhand's Latehar district in Jharkhand leaving seven personnel and two civilians dead.

Maoists blew up a vehicle carrying poll officials in Chhattisgarh's Rajnandgaon district, killing five of them and traded gunfire with security forces killing two CRPF jawans.

Polling booths were set on fire and there was exchange of fire between naxals and security forces in Dantewada and Narainpur areas of the state that left two CRPF jawan dead and five others injured.

In Bihar's Gaya district, the Maoists shot dead two security personnel.

"Considering the complexity and the challenges, the Election Commission is totally satisfied with today's polling, Deputy Election Commissioner R Balakrishnan told reporters here while briefing mediapersons about the voter turnout.

Thuday's election will decide the fate of 1,715 candidates including RJD chief Lalu Prasad, BJP's Murli Manohar Joshi and Yashwant Sinha, TRS president K Chandrasekar Rao and union ministers Praful Patel, Renuka Chowdhury, Meira Kumar and S Jaipal Reddy.

Low turnout of voters was reported from Uttar Pradesh (48 to 50 per cent) and Bihar (46 per cent) in the first phase with the two key states accounting for 120 Lok Sabha seats.

Orissa recorded a voter turnout of 53 per cent and Kandhamal, the ground zero of anti-Christian violence, saw 65 per cent polling.

The highest polling of 86 per cent was reported from Lakshwadweep and over 60 per cent cast their votes in Left Front-ruled Kerala where 20 seats are up for grab.

Voting began on a sedate note in the 124 constituencies spread across 17 states and union territories and picked up during the day.

Maoists also set afire at least three polling booths, electronic voting machines and other materials in Orissa's Malkangiri district today, disrupting voting.

In Bihar, a homeguard and a police official on election duty were shot dead and another injured by naxals in Singhpur village in Gaya district Two other policemen were reported missing.

Source : The Hindu