Maharashtra recording low voter turnout, polling peaceful (Lead)

Mumbai, April 16 (Inditop) Maharashtra’s 13 Lok Sabha constituencies notched a low turnout of 17.14 percent till 11 a.m. Thursday, officials said. Polling has been peaceful barring a pre-dawn attack by Maoists that was foiled by security personnel.

Voting began on a dull note at 7 a.m. and failed to pick up even after four hours. Some 18.1 million voters are eligible to elect 13 MPs from among 246 candidates including 119 independents in the first phase of general elections in Maharashtra.

A gang of heavily armed Maoists came to attack a polling booth in a village in Gadchiroli district at 5 a.m. but the attempt was foiled by security forces who opened retaliatory fire forcing them back into the jungles, police said.

The main battle in Maharashtra is between the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on the one hand and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena on the other.

The polling will determine the fate of three ministers from the ruling Congress-led-United Progressive Alliance (UPA) – Praful Patel, Suryakanta Patil and Vilas Muttemwar – plus several sitting and former MPs as well as legislators.

The 13 constituencies where polling is under way are in eastern Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region and a part of the Marathwada region. The dominant issues here are farmland suicides, inflation, lack of drinking and irrigation water supply, Maoists and lopsided development.

The constituencies are Akola, Amravati, Buldana, Wardha, Ramtek, Nagpur, Bhandara-Gondia, Gadchiroli-Chimur, Yavatmal-Washim, Chandrapur, Nanded, Parbhani and Hingoli.

Prominent personalities who cast their votes included Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and his wife Ameeta (Nanded); Rajendra Shekhavat, son of President Pratibha Patil (Amravati); BJP state chief Nitin Gadkari; and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader Mohan Bhagwat (Nagpur).