New Delhi: The first phase of the staggered Lok Sabha polls was marred by Naxal violence that claimed 18 lives as an estimated 60% of the 14.30 crore voters exercised their franchise in 124 constituencies on Thursday.
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Voting began on a moderate note in 124 constituencies spread across 15 states and two union territories during which the fate of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad, Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Murli Manohar Joshi and Yashwant Sinha and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) president K Chandrasekar Rao will be decided. There are 1,715 candidates in the fray.
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Simultaneous elections to assemblies in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa also drew about 60% voters’ response with the polling on Thursday, covering more than half of the constituencies in the two states.
Heavily-armed Naxals went into action shortly after voting began on Thursday morning, blasting landmine targeting a bus ferrying Border Security Force personnel in Jharkhand’s Latehar district, leaving seven personnel and two civilians dead.
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Maoists blew up a vehicle carrying poll officials in Chhattisgarh’s Rajnandgaon district, killing five of them and traded gunfire with security forces killing two CRPF jawans.
Polling booths were set on fire and there was exchange of fire between naxals and security forces in Dantewada and Narainpur areas of the state that left two CRPF jawan dead and five others injured.
Maoists also set afire at least three polling booths, electronic voting machines and other materials in Orissa’s Malkangiri district on Thursday, disrupting voting.
In Bihar’s Gaya district, the Maoists shot dead two security personnel.
“Considering the complexity and the challenges, the Election Commission is totally satisfied with Thursday’s polling, deputy election commissioner R Balakrishnan told reporters here while briefing mediapersons about the voter turnout.