Thursday, April 30, 2009

Naxals remain a headache for election panel

30 Apr 2009, 0106 hrs IST, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: Naxalite violence continues to be a concern in the third phase of polls — covering 107 parliamentary constituencies spread over nine
states and 2 Union territories — with as many as 15, 193 polling stations identified by the Election Commission as Maoist-infested.

These affected polling stations are concentrated in 10 parliamentary constituencies in all, of which seven are in Bihar and three in West Bengal. As these go to polls on Thursday, the EC has all the security measures in place, including maximum force coverage and airlifting of poll personnel by three dedicated choppers, two of which will be deployed in West Bengal and one in Bihar.

It be recalled that widespread Naxalite violence had claimed 18 lives in the first phase of polls on April 16 covering the states worst hit by Left-wing extremism. The second phase was relatively peaceful, though five polling personnel were killed as they travelled from the polling stations to the base camp.

The “vulnerable” polling stations where voting will be held in the third phase, number 19,763 in all. Apart from Naxalites, the sources of the vulnerability of these booths could be anti-social elements or history-sheeters. Nearly 45,843 persons resident in the constituencies going to polls on April 30 have been identified as causes of vulnerability and put under a constant watch.

Nearly 14.40 crore electorate will exercise their franchise in the third phase that covers UP, Bihar, West Bengal, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, J&K, Sikkim and the two UTs of Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu. Sikkim will also have simultaneous assembly polls.

As many as 1,567 candidates are in the fray, of which 101 are women. With the completion of the third phase, the fate of 372 parliamentary seats would have been sealed in the EVMs. As for the remaining 171 seats, they will be go to polls in the fourth phase on May 7 followed by the fifth and final phase on May 13.

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