Staff Correspondent

Police fire tear gas to disperse crowd

GADAG: Two incidents of violence resulting in injuries to three persons and a few policemen which in turn lead to the police firing tear gas shells to disperse the crowd marred the otherwise peaceful polling in the gram panchayat elections in Gadag district on Wednesday.

People enthusiastically participated in the election with people lining up in front of the polling stations as early as 7 a.m. at several places in the district. According to preliminary reports, polling is likely to be more than 70 per cent in the district.

The first incident of violence was reported at Nagavi in Gadag taluk in the morning, when two rival groups clashed near the polling stations. One group supporting a candidate allegedly threatened the voters with lethal weapons near the polling station and asked them to vote in favour of a particular candidate. Soon members of the rival group arrived at the spot resulting in a scuffle between the two groups.

Additional police forces were immediately pressed into service and a mild lathi-charge by the police brought the situation under control.

Three persons, Ashok Banjara, Chandru Lamani and Manjula Lamani, who were seriously injured in the scuffle, have been admitted to the district hospital. Polling resumed under heavy police bandobast and concluded peacefully.

Tear gas

The second incident was reported at Bellatti village in Shirhatti taluk where a scuffle between two groups resulted in stone-throwing leading to the police resorting to firing tear gas shells to disperse the crowd.

The incident occurred around 4 p.m. when one of the candidates, Shivanagouda Patil, entered the polling station and reportedly started canvassing there resulting in stiff resistance from the other candidates and polling agents. The altercation among the candidates created commotion in the booth leading to stone-throwing in which a few police personnel who were trying to control the situation were injured.

The police ultimately took Shivanagouda Patil into custody and while he was being taken to the police station, another group stopped the police van and demanded his release. When a lathi-charge failed to disperse the crowd, the police fired teargas shells to bring the situation under control. Thereafter, polling was conducted under tight security.

Barring these two incidents, polling was peaceful in the district. Only in Haradagatti in Shirhatti taluk polling started two hours after scheduled time as a few candidates complained that witchcraft had been used to influence the voters through a “puja” to the ballot box. It was only after the intervention of officials and elders of the village that polling started.

Deputy Commissioner N.V. Prasad told The Hindu that polling percentage was likely to be more than 70 per cent in the district. There is no re-polling in any of the constituencies.

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