Polling was being held in Ranchi, Giridih, Jamshedpur, Singhbhum (ST), Khunti (ST) and Hazaribagh seats under strict security and helicopter surveillance.
The second day of polling in Jharkhand's six constituencies on Thursday went by largely peacefully, except for a landmine blast in Bokaro in which three Central Reserve Police Force personnel and a driver were injured. The voter turnout in all six constituencies was 62 percent, an increase of over 11 per cent over the turnout in 2009.
Inside the densely forested parts of Khunti and the adjacent Singhbhum, tribal women carrying their children in cloth slings, youngsters on bicycles, and old men and women walking with sticks had crowded near booths at several places by 8 a.m. Many recounted they had walked one to three hours to reach from their villages to the polling booths.
At Sake, not connected by a motorable road, Munar Soi and Hotai Soi, Munda tribals in their late teens, cast their vote for the first time. “We got the voter IDs three months back. A booth was set up at our village school so it was easy to access too. But we requested the polling staff not to mark our nails with the dark-blue ink stain. Darr bhi lagta hai, sab ko dekhna padta hai.(We are scared; we have to keep all factors in mind),”said Munar, referring to the heavy presence of CPI(Maoist) in the area who have asked for an election boycott.
At the booths at Kochang and Sake, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF)'s 157 Battalion who had posted at Palamu for the first phase of elections on April 10, kept watch. They recounted they have been shifted to Bandgaon in West Singhbhum four days back. The polling staff had been brought to their respective booths the previous day by helicopters while the CRPF personnel reached the booths at 6 a.m. on Thursday. “We walked from the Bandgaon camp starting 5.30 a.m. through the forest, avoiding the dirt tracks used by the villagers because these can hold explosives,” said one of the CRPF's men. CRPF personnel could be seen keeping watch from the roofs of school buildings in both Khunti and West Singhbhum, others guarded the gates of schools buildings after teams carrying metal detectors had sanitised the area.
Khunti has a tribal population of 73.3 per cent, the highest among all districts in Jharkhand. While the most visible campaign is that of the sitting MP Kariya Munda who is a seven- time MP and Deputy Speaker Lok Sabha, Jharkhand Party's Enos Ekka, and Aam Admi Party's Dayamani Barla, in several remote villages, tribal villagers said they had instructions from their village representatives to vote for “gajar”(carrot), the election symbol of Mahadev Ravinath Pahan, an Independent. “Pahan is a cousin of the CPI(Maoist) leader Kundan Pahan. From Adki to south of Adki till Kochang, the party (Maoists) did not allow anyone to even enter the hills to do prachaar (campaign),” said one of the villagers, a para-teacher.
While several villagers in Rauli, Sarda in West Singhbhum said they had walked 10 to 15 km to vote, in Khunti's Adki block's Tubil village a crowd of villagers gathered at 3.30 p.m. to protest not being allowed to vote after 3 p.m. “We know that voting time was from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. But even while we were waiting in the sun in queues, at 2.30 p.m., the CRPF men at our booth no. 137 said the voting was over and they packed up and left,” said the village mukhiya Bhaiya Ram Manki. “Are we citizens or not? We are told we should vote if we wish to be considered citizens. But still they left early without letting 50 of us vote,” said Paramchand Soi, a young teacher.
Khunti recorded 61 per cent voter turnout, 9 per cent higher than 2009, and Singhbhum recorded 63 per cent turnout, 3 per cent higher than last election.