17 Dead as Violence Marks Start of Polls

Voters across 124 parliamentary segments spanning 17 states exercised their franchise on Thursday, even as violence marred the start of the India’s month-long staggered polls to elect a 545 member House and perhaps, a new government.

Maoist violence during the Phase-one polling killed at least 17 people.

Voters queued up outside poll stations as early as 0700 hours (local time) and climaxed at most places at around 1700 hours. Moderate turnout was being reported from most states despite the violence that targeted poll stations and security personnel.

Scores of election staff, police and paramilitary personnel maintained a strict vigil over the proceedings as all noting took place in all constituencies of Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Chhattisgarh, Andaman and Nicobar Island and Lakshwadeep.

Parts of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Manipur, Orissa and Jharkhand also went to polls.

The elaborate security arrangements , however, failed to refrain the Maosists from attempting to violently implement an election boycott they advocated.

Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Maharashtra were targeted by the rebels.

Landmine blasts in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand left at least 14 killed, the wors of the day’s violence was reported from Latehar area of Jharkhand, where seven Border Security Force (BSF) troops and two others were killed as the bus they were traveling in was blown up en-route to a poll booth on the area.

In Chhattisgarh, five poll officials were killed as Maoists triggered a landmine in Rajnandgaon district. A paramilitary trooper was reportedly killed in an encounter between security personnel and the Naxals in Dantewada.

In Bihar’s Gaya district, a police constable and a Home Guard were killed when a dozen armed rebels opened fire at a poll station.

Incidents of gun battles, booths raids, attacks on voters and torching of poll paraphernalia were also reported from several places in the states hit by Maoists violence.

Andhra Pradesh recorded a 60-65 percent voter turnout while Assam witnessed 65 per cent polling.

Voting in Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh was brisk and reported to be in the region of 60-70 percent.

Voter exuberance in Manipur, which has seen a rise in rebel violence in recent times was said to be lower as 40 to 50 percent of citizens exercised franchise.

Voting in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar was reported be around 50 percent.

Kerala is reported to have witnessed an overall poll average of 60 percent.

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