First phase of Jharkhand election ends, both BJP and oppn upbeat at turnout
The first phase of polling in 13 of 81 seats assembly seats in Jharkhand passed off peacefully on Saturday with 62.87% voting concluded at 3 pm, election officials said.
Chief electoral officer (CEO), Vinay Kumar Choubey said the polling percentage would increase when final reports would come. “Voters are still in queues in many polling booths of these constituencies,” he said.
The first phase of the five-phase elections was challenging as most constituencies were spread across six Maoist-affected districts, election officials said.
“The polling on all 13 seats passed off peacefully with encouraging figure of voters’ turnout. No untoward incident was reported from any of the constituency,” Choubey said.
Barring few incidents of violence including a clash between Congress and BJP supporters in Daltonganj and Maoists reportedly blowing up a culvert in Gumla, the polling went on smoothly across the 13 constituencies amid tight security.
The 13 constituencies had registered 63.27% in 2014 and 55.95% in 2009 assembly elections.
The highest polling has been recorded in the Gumla constituency, where 67.30 per cent polling took place till 3 pm. Chatra recorded the lowest 56.59% polling.
Minor technical glitches in EVMs were reported at some places. At Ambawtikar and Ashram school booths in Latehar assembly seat, voting began almost after an hour after the scheduled start due to technical snag in EVMs.
“I was in queue at booth number 204 of Ashram middle school since 6.45 am. But I found no polling staff at the booth till 7.15 am. When polling began, EVM at my booth developed technical snag. It was restored around 7.45 am,” said Ashish Tagore, a voter of Latehar constituency.
Long queues of voters, especially the women, were seen at most of the polling stations in both urban and rural areas since voting process commenced at 7.00 am in the morning amid tight security. The polling concluded at 3pm.
A total of 189 candidates including a minister and eight sitting legislators are in the fray. Health minister Ramchandra Chandravanshi, Congress state president Rameshwar Oraon, former Congress state president Sukhdeo Bhagat and former minister Chandrasekhar Dubey are some of the big names in the first phase of the election.
The phase also sealed fate of controversial turncoats, Bhanu Pratap Shahi and Shashi Bhushan Mehta, who are contesting on BJP ticket this time round. Shahi, a former health minister in Madhu Koda government, is facing trial in Rs 136-crore medicine scam.
More than 35,000 security personnel had been deployed to conduct free and fair polls and keep the Maoists at bay. Despite the tight security, Maoists blew up a culvert on Gumla-Lohardaga border in the morning soon after the voting process began. However, no injury was reported in the incident.
Election officials said the incident took place in a forest. “There was a polling booth in the area but that had been relocated in advance,” said Gumla election officer Shashi Ranjan.
At Koshiyara polling booth in Daltonganj assembly constituency, a clash was reported between supporters of Congress candidate KN Tripathy and BJP candidate Alok Chourasia. Tripathy reportedly brandished a pistol, which he claimed was for his defense. Election commission took cognizance of the incident and asked district election official to probe into it.
Ruling as well as opposition parties are upbeat with polling percentage. “First phase is always important, as it sets agenda of election. Voters’ turnout has been encouraging and we hope BJP will make clean sweep in the phase,” said BJP state spokesperson Pratul Shahdeo.
The alliance of three parties-JMM, Congress and RJD, is also hopeful of scoring big in the phase. “The voters’ turnout indicates that alliance will make a big win in the phase. As per our calculation, we are winning nine seats out of 13 and the alliance will give tough fight in remaining four seats.”
The BJP is contesting 12 seats in the first phase, while it is supporting Independent Vinod Singh from Hussainabad.
The opposition alliance of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal is contesting in four, six and three constituencies, respectively.
The BJP won six seats out of the 13 in the 2014 assembly polls, with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and the Congress taking one each and the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik), or JVM (P), two seats.