Voters defied boycott call to cast their ballots across Maoist-hit states in the third phase of Lok Sabha elections. While nearly half of the electorate in six Bihar seats voted, two troopers headed for poll duty were killed in a landmine blast triggered by the ultras.
Hours before the voting began, the rebels blew up a jeep, killing the jawans and wounding three others. The soldiers were patrolling a forest in a rebel stronghold in Munger district when their jeep hit the land mine.
Voting was suspended at 20 nearby polling stations because of the safety threat, but started as scheduled in other parts of Bihar, police said. Election authorities are expected to hold voting in the area targeted by the rebels on another day.
Also, five can bombs — two in Gaya and three in Aurangabad parliamentary constituencies — were recovered from near polling booths.
Suspected Maoists also opened fire on security forces near 10 polling booths in Chhattisgarh's Left-Wing extremism-hit Bastar parliamentary seat, where around 30% of the electorate cast their votes till noon.
Besides, a huge haul of explosives including 15 IEDs and three pressure bombs, were recovered by security forces from separate places, averting a massive strike by the ultras in the insurgency-hit region.
"Maoists opened fire on security forces near around ten polling booths while voting was underway there. No injury or casualty was reported in the incidents," a senior police official told PTI.
Rebels fled to the forest after security personnel launched retaliatory attack on them, he said.
The polling booths where firing was reported are – Korra and Amirgarh in Sukma district, Samoli and Thanikarka booths in Dantewada district, Nednar booth of Narayanpur district, Padeli and Raigabodi in Kondagaon, he said.
Earlier, 15 Improvised Explosive Devices — of 10 kg each — buried underground near the polling booths were found this morning by a joint patrol squad of Border Security Force and district force from Nelnar area of Narayanpur district.
A Maoist was gunned down late on Wednesday night and another was injured in an encounter with security forces in Sukma district.
Of the 1,797 booths in Bastar, 1,407 have been marked as 'critical' and all steps have been taken to ensure free and fearless polling there, the official said.
In Odisha, Maoists looted an electronic voting machine from a polling booth in Kotpad assembly constituency in Koraput district as 58% voters cast their ballot by 3.45pm. Polling for 10 LS constituencies and 70 assembly seats is underway in the state.
Early reports said four EVMs and a truck were burnt in Maoist-hit Malkangiri district, which is under the Nabarangpur Lok Sabha constituency.
"The EVMs for four booths in Mathili block of the district (more than 600 km southwest of state capital Bhubaneswar) were burnt by some miscreants.
Involvement of local miscreants is suspected, though Maoist connect cannot be ruled out," a police officer said.
In Maoist-hit districts of Malkangiri, Koraput, Nabarangpur, Rayagada, Nuapada and Kandhamal, people came out in large numbers to cast their votes defying the extremists' appeal to boycott the polls.
Maharashtra’s Maoist-hit Gadchiroli-Chimur constituency saw a whopping 50% voting till 2pm amid heavy security deployment, the highest turnout so far in the region.