Thursday, December 03, 2009

Red dens spurn boycott call

Better policing leads to 54 per cent polling

Voters at Rampur in Khijri on Wednesday. Picture by Manik Bose
Ranchi, Dec. 2: A wide security blanket comprising more than 40,000 state and central forces personnel, coupled with the genuine desire of people to participate in the election process, ensured a better turnout today in the second phase of voting in 14 constituencies, at least six of which are Maoist strongholds.

Barring a rebel blast in Pirtand in Giridih that killed a CISF jawan and another one that damaged a culvert in Dumri, voting was surprisingly peaceful throughout the seven districts, even though the run up to the second phase of elections saw a Maoist sponsored bandh that came with its share of violence.

The average polling recorded in the second phase was around 54.11 per cent, but poll officials cautioned the figure might change after more data came in from the remote areas.

A much relieved state chief secretary, Shiv Basant, told The Telegraph that elaborate security arrangements that included “pre-poll area domination by security forces” and the active role of the administration helped build confidence among people who ultimately came out to vote.

Defying a Maoist poll boycott call, voter turnout was high in as many as 12 constituencies. Most Naxalite-infested areas like Tamar — parts of which are under Ranchi and Khunti district — and Dumri in Giridih registered a turnout of 42 and 48 respectively.

In the remaining constituencies of Silli, Khijri, Mandar (in Ranchi district), Gomia (Bokaro), Gandey, Giridih and Dumri (Giridih), Barhi and Mandu (Hazaribagh), Barkagaon and Ramgarh (in Ramgarh district), Koderma and Khunti, polling was between 49 to 62 per cent.

Today’s turnout was better than the first phase of elections that registered 53.10 per cent polling in 26 seats that were relatively free from rebel influence. Moreover, urban centres registered abysmal polling on November 25 with Ranchi recording only 32.91 per cent, and Hatia and Kanke doing marginally better with 39.45 and 43.57 per cent respectively.

Both the urban seats of Jamshedpur also witnessed poor poll percentages. Ultimately, the seats in Santhal Pargana (Pakur alone polled over 72 per cent) helped shore up the overall figure to 53.10 per cent.

“The smooth and peaceful conduct of the second phase elections was a major concern for us but our arrangements proved to be fool-proof. Barring only one incident in Giridih, everything was OK,” said the state’s joint chief electoral officer, Ashok Kumar Sinha


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