Jharkhand Elections: Over 62 pc polling in Maoist belt

Photo by PTI

Barring a few sporadic incidents of violence, polling for the first phase of Assembly elections in Jharkhand was by and large peaceful on Saturday. The Congress candidate from Daltonganj, KN Tripathi, was taken into police custody after he brandished a gun during a clash with BJP supporters outside a polling booth. In another incident, the outlawed CPI (Maoists), which had given a call for poll boycott, blew up a culvert in Gumla. However, no one was injured in the incident.

The State witnessed 62.8 per cent of polling during the first phase of the election. Since all the 13 constituencies, which went to polls today, were afflicted with left-wing extremism (LWE), voting was allowed till 3 pm, unlike the normal practice of polling till 5 pm.

The most pleasant surprise was polling in Naxal-infested Chatra, near Hazaribagh, where a large number of voters turned up to exercise their franchise. This was the same area where earlier voters would refrain from casting their votes due to Maoists’ threat. Even on Saturday, some of the polling and security personnel were deployed in the interiors of Chatra with the help of helicopters.

“A bridge in Gumla’s Bishnupur was blown up by Maoists when the polling was underway. However, no one was injured, nor polling in the Naxal-infested constituency affected,” said Deputy Commissioner Shashi Ranjan.

With today’s poll, the fate of 189 candidates, including Health Minister in Jharkhand, Ramchandra Chandrawanshi and IPS-turned-Jharkhand Congress president Rameshwar Oraon, has been sealed.

This is the fourth occasion when an Assembly election is being held ever since Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar in November 2000. While the first two polls in 2005 and 2009 threw up a fractured mandate and unstable governments, it was only in 2014 when the BJP and its ally AJSU (All Jharkhand Students Party) got a wafer-thin majority of 42 (BJP:37, AJSU:5) in the 81-member Assembly. This is also the first occasion (since the State was formed) that BJP’s Raghubar Das Government has completed its full five-year term.   

For the 2019 Assembly elections, the State is having a five-phase poll as the Election Commission has said that out of 81 constituencies in Jharkhand, 67 were Maoist-affected and “heavy deployment of security personnel was required to conduct a peaceful poll in this tribal-dominated State.”

The other four phases of polling will take place on December 7, 12, 16 and 20. Counting of votes is slated for December 23. The term of the Jharkhand Assembly expires on January 2, 2020.

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