Moderate polling in Bengal, landmine injures one (Second Lead)

Kolkata, April 30 (Inditop) Suspected Maoists exploded a landmine in West Bengal’s Purulia district injuring a security personnel even as there was a 29 percent voter turnout in the first four hours of polling for 14 Lok Sabha seats in the state Thursday.

“A central police force jawan was injured in a low-intensity landmine blast at Balarampur in Purulia. He suffered a minor injury in his leg,” Inspector General (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia told IANS.

This incident apart, polling was largely peaceful in nine districts in the northern and Maoist violence-hit western parts of the state despite sporadic disturbances and interruptions in the poll process, reports said.

Around 29 percent polling was reported on an average until 11 a.m., an election official said. Voters young and old lined up in towns and villages at over 21,000 booths to pick their MPs from among 134 nominees.

A total of 16 million people are eligible to vote Thursday – the first phase of Lok Sabha elections in the state covering six north Bengal districts, including the troubled Darjeeling and Maoist-hit Purulia, Midnapore West and Bankura.

Two suspicious boxes found in West Midnapore’s Maoist-dominated Pirakata forest region triggered panic among voters who refused to go to polling stations. Police later found that these contained fire crackers, Kanojia said.

In Purulia, a Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader was hit by an arrow, party sources claimed, while there was a poll boycott in a booth in Salboni of Midnapore West.

To ensure a peaceful and fair election, the Election Commission has deployed nearly 220 companies of central forces across these 14 Lok Sabha constituencies.

The authorities have requisitioned three Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters for air surveillance in areas of Maoist influence, and sealed the borders with Jharkhand, Assam and Bihar to foil rebel movement.

In Maoist dominated Lalgarh in Midnapore West, where tribals have been on a collision course with the administration over alleged police atrocities, around 49 polling booths have been arranged for 35,000-40,000 voters in four villages.

The residents there had earlier opposed the entry of the police into the region. The booths have been moved five kilometres away.

In Belpahari, polling personnel who were kept confined by angry locals throughout the night refused to do election duty, but were later persuaded by the authorities to go to the booths in Chakadoba and Kagmari areas.

Reports from Siliguri said there was a poll boycott in six booths in the plains of Darjeeling district while enthusiastic queues of people were seen in the hills under a thick blanket of fog, a cold wind and intermittent rains.

Twentyfour percent votes were cast in the first four hours in the Darjeeling Lok Sabha constituency from where Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) heavyweight Jaswant Singh is trying his luck.

West Bengal has 42 Lok Sabha seats. While 17 seats will go to polls May 7, voters in 11 constituencies will exercise their franchise May 13.