Violence-hit Chhattisgarh records 50 percent polling (Third Lead

Raipur, April 16 (Inditop) An estimated 50 percent voters of Chhattisgarh’s 15.4 million electorate exercised their franchise Thursday in the state’s 11 Lok Sabha seats amid widespread violence by Maoist guerrillas that left five polling staff and two policemen dead.

Officials here estimate that 45-50 percent voters voted at 20,967 polling booths by 4 p.m. when polling ended in nine constituencies. Voting in two Maoist-affected constituencies – Bastar and Kanker – ended at 3 p.m.

The polling percentage may go up after election officials get the detailed reports from various regions and prepare the final poll data.

A total of 178 candidates are in fray but the main contest is between the state’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress that heads government at the centre.

“The poll was largely marred by violence. Guerrillas blew up a jeep carrying seven polling officials in state’s western Rajnandgaon district in which five were killed on the spot,” Girdhari Nayak, additional director general of police, told IANS.

“Two CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) jawans of the 41st battalion were shot dead and four others injured in Dantewada district,” Nayak said.

In the attack in Rajnandgaon, some 125 km from here, two polling officials received multiple splinter injuries and were battling for life in a government hospital.

Maoists struck at a CRPF team in Dantewada district’s Gadiras police station, some 480 km south of capital Raipur, and gunned down two troopers and injured at least four of their colleagues.

The widespread violence came despite the police claim that they had made “heavy security arrangements to handle insurgents and keep aerial view on the 250-odd polling booths in restive areas to track the guerrillas’ movements”.

Nayak said heavily armed Maoists engaged security officials at about a dozen places in Bastar and Kanker Lok Sabha seats as soon as voting began at 7 a.m.

Police officials said dozens of polling booths in interiors of Bastar, Kanker and Rajnandgaon seats wore a deserted look, as the rebels had warned voters that their hands would be chopped off if they voted.

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