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Voters thumb their nose at Maoists: 55% vote in Phase-2

Voters thumb their nose at Maoists: 55% vote in Phase-2

Author: PNS
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: April 24, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/171749/Voters-thumb-their-nose-at-Maoists-55-vote-in-Phase-2.html

Fears of a massive Maoist-led disruptions did not materialise as voters in large numbers turned up to cast their vote in the second round of polling on Thursday. Barring a few stray incidents in Bihar and Jharkhand, polling went off peacefully in the 13 States that elected 141 candidates this round. The overall voting percentage was a modest 55 per cent.

However, reports said five cops were killed in Naxal-related incidents in Bihar apart from one death reported in Andhra and two in Assam.

More than 55 per cent of the nearly 200 million voters exercised their franchise. Addressing media in New Delhi, Deputy Election Commissioner R Balakrishnan said the commission was extremely satisfied with the poll which was "incident-free."

He said over 10.72 lakh polling personnel were involved in exercise which was video-graphed by 26,000 cameras.

He said there were incidents of snatching and damaging of EVMs in Andhra Pradesh and a detailed inquiry would be conducted and on that basis re-polling would be ordered. Noting that over 24,000 polling stations in 27 parliamentary constituencies faced Maoist threat, Balakrishnan said security personnel handled the situation effectively.

He said a re-poll would be conducted in 146 polling stations in Bihar and 58 polling stations in Jharkhand which went to poll in the first phase on April 16.

Among the 13 States which went to poll on Thursday, Andhra Pradesh recorded the highest voter turnout with 68 per cent followed by Maharashtra (56 per cent), Orissa and Karnataka (55 each), Jharkhand (47), Jammu & Kashmir (46), Madhya Pradesh (47) and Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (44 each).

The second phase of the five-round election would decide the electoral fate of a number of political heavyweights, including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi (Amethi), NCP chief Sharad Pawar (Madha), Union Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath (Chhindwara), LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan (Hajipur) and BJP leader Sushma Swaraj (Vidisha).

Meanwhile, two officials were injured and a Magistrate had a narrow escape on Thursday when Maoists carried out blasts in the districts of Giridih (Jharkhand) and East Champaran (Bihar) where security forces after a fierce hour-long gunbattle repulsed a Maoist bid to disrupt the election.

An Executive Magistrate, Rajendra Prasad, and a constable were wounded when Maoists lobbed a bomb at their vehicle near Dadi-Srirampur village in Giridih district in Jharkhand where election is being held in eight Lok Sabha constituencies, police sources said. They were going to their assigned polling stations in the district, about 200 km from Ranchi, they said.

In Bihar, a team of poll officials, which included an executive magistrate, had a narrow escape when suspected Maoists triggered an IED blast in Barthua village in East Champaran district, around 200 km from Patna, a CRPF official said. He said personnel from the 153rd Battalion of the CRPF were accompanying the party and some people got "minor injuries".

"Jawans were walking with a magistrate down the stretch and their vehicle was moving at a very slow speed on the dusty road when the land mine went off," Neelmani, Additional Director General (HQ) of CRPF told the media.

In another encounter, the security forces repulsed a Maoist bid to disrupt polling in Bansdera in East Singhbhum, 165 km from the Jharkhand capital, after a fierce hour-long gunbattle with the extremists, Inspector General of Police SN Pradhan said in Ranchi.

Maoists had on Wednesday seized a train carrying nearly 700 passengers in Jharkhand's Latehar district for over four hours and bombed a BDO's office and shot dead a driver after setting ablaze trucks in Bihar. Suspected Maoists had also killed three CPI(M) workers in West Bengal.

"An encounter took place at Bansdra under Ghatshila sub-division and a strong response from the CRPF and police forced the Maoists to retreat," Pradhan said, adding a helicopter surveillance of the area was undertaken and combing operations were on.

Maoists had struck in a big way during the first phase of election on April 16, killing 19 people across three States, including seven BSF personnel and two others in Jharkhand.

The Maoists torched EVMs at four booths in the Singhbhum constituency, 200 km from Ranchi, leading to the cancellation of voting.

Maoists on Wednesday night blew up Chianki railway station building and tracks near Medininagar in Palamu district, 150 km from Ranchi, disrupting train services, Deputy Commissioner in Medininagar Amitabh Kaushal said. The railway teams from Barwadih and Dhanbad were on their way to the spot to repair the tracks.

The Maoists had also detonated a landmine in the Saranda forest in West Singhbhum district last night.

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