Chhattisgarh records 25 percent polling, six killed in Maoist violence (Second Lead)

Raipur, April 16 (Inditop) An estimated 25 percent voters of Chhattisgarh’s 15.4 million voters exercised their franchise by 12.30 p.m. Thursday in the state’s 11 Lok Sabha seats amid violence by Maoists who killed five polling staff and a securityman.

Officials here estimate that 25 to 28 percent voters exercised their franchise at 20,967 polling booths by 12.30 p.m.

Maoists engaged security officials at about a dozen places in Bastar and Kanker Lok Sabha seats as soon voting began at 7 a.m.. Five polling staff were killed in the state’s western Rajnandgaon district, some 125 km from here, when the rebels blew up their jeep.

A Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) trooper of the 41st battalion was killed and four others injured in a gun battle at Maroki village in Dantewada district’s Gadiras police station, some 480 km south of capital Raipur.

“Heavy security arrangements have been made to handle insurgents and ensure smooth polling. We are keeping aerial view on the 250-odd polling booths in restive areas and also tracking the guerrillas’ movements,” Additional Director General of Police Girdhari Nayak told IANS.

Police officials say polling in interiors of Bastar, Kanker and Rajnandgaon seats is underway with majority of booths deserted as the rebels had warned voters that their hands would be chopped off if they cast their ballots.

Rebels have blocked roads in interiors of Bijapur district’s Bhopalpatanam and Mader areaa and also in Antagarh in Kanker district with heavy wooden logs placed on roads.

Voting will end in Bastar and Kanker seats by 3 p.m., while in the other nine seats polling stations will close at 4 p.m. Thursday’s polling will decide the fate of 178 candidates, including nine who face criminal charges.

The election is seen here as a direct contest between the state’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress.