Despite threats from Maoists, more than half of the population of Gadchiroli turned out to exercise their franchise.
Voters braved violence to register a turnout of above 60 per cent. The turnout in the 2004 Assembly polls was 67 per cent.
Last week, Left-wing extremists killed 17 police personnel at Laheri. Over 50 companies of central paramilitary forces were deployed in the district to avoid Maoist interference in the elections.
However, Maoists struck at several places to disrupt polling on Tuesday. They attacked police personnel and poll staff in several villages across the district.
District authorities got four Air force helicopters, including two Mi-17 choppers that rescued policemen in the district on polling day.
Naxalite forces struck at Kasansur as soon as polling began. They fired on polling parties and security personnel. They also attacked security personnel in Bondegaon, firing on them for over 20 minutes. “Immediate reinforcement sent by helicopter saved the team,” said S Jayakumar, superintendent of police, Gadchiroli.
Naxalites also inflicted violence in several villages near the Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border. At least 300 armed Maoists surrounded polling officials and security personnel at Khamtala in the evening. Gun battle between the police and the Naxalites went on until late evening. Three helicopters with 70 paramilitary forces were sent to rescue the personnel.
The possibilities of Naxalite attacks prevented the district administration from sending poll parties to 22 inaccessible polling centres in the district. The administration has decided to conduct a re-poll at these polling stations on October 15.
District Collector, Atul Patne, claimed the administration decided not to send polling parties to 22 hypersensitive polling booths in the district to confuse the Naxalites. “We deliberately did it to save our jawans,” said Patne.
Police thrash scribes
A group of journalists were allegedly attacked by the police near Maselihgaon village, about 80 km from Gadchiroli, when they were trying to report on villagers who had been brought to the polling booths forcibly.
A group of 10 to 12 scribes from local dailies landed at the village and were shocked to discover that the villagers had been brought to the polling stations on gunpoint. The police, fearing that they would be exposed, attacked the journalists.
(inputs from Debasish Panigrahi)