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58-62% turnout in Phase I polls; naxalites kill 19

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NEVER TOO OLD: An official applies the indelible ink on the finger of an elderly woman monk at a polling booth at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh during the first phase of the general elections on Thursday.
NEVER TOO OLD: An official applies the indelible ink on the finger of an elderly woman monk at a polling booth at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh during the first phase of the general elections on Thursday.

New Delhi Bureau

Violence marks elections in naxal affected States

Poll percentage: A.P. 65; Arunachal and Assam 62 each; Bihar 46; J&K 48; Kerala 60; U.P. 50

EC expresses “total satisfaction, considering the problems, difficulties and challenges”

NEW DELHI: Elections in 124 of the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies on Thursday – the first of the five-phase polls – witnessed the killing of 19 people in violent incidents at 86 polling stations, mostly in the naxalite affected areas of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand and Maharashtra.

Polling, however, was largely peaceful in 1.85 lakh polling stations covering an electorate of over 14.31 crore. A total of 1,715 candidates, including 122 women, were in the fray.

The 19 killed were nine civilians and polling personnel and 10 men of the Central Reserve Police Force, the Border Security Force and other Central and State police forces. Seven were injured.

At Chatra in Jharkhand, a landmine blast killed seven BSF jawans and two civilians. A group of poll officials was abducted and polling could not be held. At Bastar, Chhattisgarh, a polling station was burnt and in about a dozen blasts, several policemen and civilians were killed.

In Gaya, Bihar, a polling station was attacked by naxalites and a policeman and a home guard were shot dead. Six booths were attacked and some set afire at Malkangiri, Orissa. In some booths in Orissa and Chhattisgarh, electronic voting machines were snatched. The poll process was also disrupted by naxalites at Gachroli in Maharashtra.

The Election Commission, however, expressed “total satisfaction, considering the problems, difficulties and challenges” faced in conducting polls in remote areas. It was also happy that preliminary reports suggested a 58 to 62 per centage voter turnout.

At Kandhamal in Orissa, which witnessed anti-Christian violence since August last, the voting percentage could be as high as 65, Deputy Election Commissioner R. Balakrishnan said here.

Besides the Lok Sabha constituencies, covering 15 States and two Union Territories, elections were also held for 154 of a total of 294 Assembly segments in Andhra Pradesh and 70 of 147 seats in Orissa.

The break-up of the Lok Sabha seats that went to the polls is as follows:

Chhattisgarh 11; Kerala 20; Andhra Pradesh 22; Assam 3; Jharkhand 6; Orissa 10; Maharashtra and Bihar 13 each; Uttar Pradesh 16; Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya two each; Andaman Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur and Jammu & Kashmir one each.

The tentative percentage for the States are: Andhra Pradesh 65 per cent; Arunachal Pradesh and Assam 62 each; Bihar 46; Jammu and Kashmir 48; Kerala 60; Maharashtra 54; Manipur and Meghalaya around 66; Mizoram, 52; Nagaland 84; Orissa 53; U.P., Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand around 50, Lakshadweep registering the highest at 86; and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands 62.

Corrections and Clarifications

A monk is a member of a religious order of men. A woman cannot be called amonk. A photo caption ("58-62% turnout in Phase I polls; naxalites kill 19", Page 1, April 17, 2009) said it showed indelible ink being applied to thefinger of an "elderly woman monk".

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