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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Sep 2014

Riot-hit Muzaffarnagar sees voter turnout of 68.27%

S Raju and Vashishta Bhardwaj, Hindustan Times  Muzaffarnagar, April 10, 2014
First Published: 15:53 IST(10/4/2014) | Last Updated: 08:57 IST(11/4/2014)

Torn by communal riots last September, Muzaffarnagar saw a high voter turnout of 68.27% on Thursday in the first phase of polling for 10 Lok Sabha constituencies in western Uttar Pradesh.

Voters in Muzaffarnagar bettered their 2009 elections turnout of 54.37%.

State police took extra precautionary measures in the constituency given the sensitive situation following the September riots, which killed at least 61 people and displaced nearly 51,000. The violence had erupted in Muzaffarnagar but soon spread to adjoining areas of western UP.

Separate polling booths were set up for the displaced riot victims at places where they are currently residing. Those in relief camps who had not been registered as voters were taken to their native villages under security cover.

"There is no forgetting the pain and the loss caused by the riots. No party can do anything to bring back what is lost," said Mohammad Khalid, who voted at Phugana village in Muzaffarnagar.

Nasim Ahmad, who voted in Jogikhera village, said, "I have voted for development and security."

But Azim Ali of Porebaliyan village lauded the Akhilesh Yadav government for distributing laptops and adequately compensating riot victims, and said he had voted for the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP).

The state government has faced a lot of flak from other political parties over the riots.

The unrest in Muzaffarnagar is also seen as having polarised the electorate in Uttar Pradesh along religious lines, with the BJP seen as benefiting from its Hindu support base while parties with secular roots promise to protect minorities.

The BJP has fielded two candidates from the area who have been charged with inciting the riots.

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