Moderate polling amid Maoist violence in Jharkhand (Third Lead)

Ranchi, April 23 (Inditop) Moderate polling was reported in the second phase of polling in eight of the 14 Lok sabha constituency of Jharkhand Thursday even as Maoist guerrillas unleashed yet another wave of violence in the state.

The polling till 11 a.m. varied between 18 and 26 percent in various constituencies. The lowest polling, 18 percent, was reported from Dumka where Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) chief Shibu Soren is contesting.

Singhbhum, which comes under one of the Maoist-hit areas, recorded the highest polling in the state till 11 a.m. with 26 percent of voters coming out to exercise their franchise, said an election official in Ranchi.

The voter turnout was 25 percent in Ranchi and 22 percent in Jamshedpur.

People were queuing up at polling stations even as the temperature around noon was recorded between 42 degree and 46 degrees Celsius in various parts.

Before the voting began, Maoists, who have called for a poll boycott, triggered landmine blasts near polling booths, attacked a paramilitary camp and blew up a railway station.

Several people were injured in the attacks spread over many parts of the state. There were intermittent gunbattles between Maoists and security forces that continued for hours in forests near Jamshedpur and Giridih.

Police said three people, including two officials going to polling stations for the second and last phase of the parliamentary elections, were injured in a landmine blast triggered by Maoist rebels in Kalamajo village of Giridih district.

The rebels also triggered an explosion on the road between Giridih and Dumri and cut trees to block it early Thursday.

No one was injured in the second landmine blast near the Bato polling booth of Jamshedpur.

Dramatic scenes were also played out in the nearby Ghatshila forest of East Singhbhum district where police used helicopters against the rebels who were exchanging gunfire with security personnel.

Earlier in the morning, Maoist rebels attacked a camp of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in West Singhbhum district, where a gunbattle between the militants and security lasted for four hours.

Late Wednesday, the guerrillas blew up the Chiyanki railway station in Palamau district and bombed the outer cabin of the complex. The cabin man and porter have been missing since the attack, officials said.

The violence came after cadres of the banned Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) hijacked a passenger train in Latehar district Wednesday though they released it fours later.

Of the eight Lok Sabha seats going to polls Thursday, four each are held by the Congress and JMM.

Of the 164 candidates – whose fate will be decided by an electorate of 10.9 million – the most high profile are the three former chief ministers Arjun Munda, Madhu Koda and Shibu Soren as well as central Food Processing Minister Subodh Kant Sahay.

Munda, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate, is fighting from Jamshedpur. Koda is fighting as an independent in Singhbhum and is locked in a triangular fight with the Congress and JMM.

Soren is fighting the Lok Sabha poll from Dumka along with an assembly by-election in Jamatara.

Sahay is in a direct fight with BJP candidate Ram Tahal Chaudhary in Ranchi.

Dhanbad has both the highest number of contestants and voters. There are 32 candidates and 1.7 million voters.

In the first phase of polling April 16, nine people, including six Border Security Force (BSF) personnel, were killed in Maoist violence.