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60 percent polling in Jharkhand’s fourth phase
Published on 12 Dec. 2009 10:53 PM IST
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An almost 60 percent turnout was reported from the 14 assembly seats, situated in Maoist strongholds, in the fourth phase of Jharkhand’s assembly elections Saturday despite the rebels’ call for a poll boycott. Polling was peaceful, officials said. “Around 59 percent polling took place in the fourth phase. Of the 14 seats, five witnessed more than 60 percent turnout. The highest turnout of 71 percent was in the Bahragora assembly seat,” Jharkhand’s joint chief electoral officer Ashok Kumar Sinha told reporters here. “We have succeeded in conducting a peaceful poll despite the fact that a majority of the seats were situated in Maoist-infested areas. There was a good turnout of voters. We had made adequate security arrangements for both polling officials and voters,” Jharkhand police spokesman V.H. Deshmukh told IANS. Security forces foiled the Maoist rebels efforts to disrupt polling by recovering landmines in Torpa and Ghatshila. In Gumla, rebels opened fire on a polling party but retreated when the security forces retaliated. The 14 seats where polling was held were Bahragora, Ghatsila, Potka, Ichagarh, Majhgaon, Manoharpur, Torpa, Sisai, Chakradharpur, Gumla, Bishunpur, Simdega, Kolebira and Lohardaga. Of these 14 assembly seats, 12 are reserved for scheduled tribe candidates. A total of 233 candidates were in the fray and the electorate comprised 2,462,850 voters. The key candidates in the fourth phase are jailed former minister Enos Ekka fighting on a Jharkhand Party (JP) ticket from Simdega and Kolebira; the Congress’ Jharkhand unit chief Pradeep Balmuchu, who is seeking reelection from Ghatshila and former deputy chief minister Sudhir Mahto, who is contesting as the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) nominee from Ichgarh. Heavy security arrangements, including aerial surveys by six helicopters, had been made to ensure peaceful polling. Polling officials were airlifted to and from polling booths in remote areas to avoid attacks. In the first three phases, voting took in 51 of the 81 seats on Nov 25 Dec 2 and 8. The last phase of polling will be on Dec 18. Counting of votes will take place on Dec 23.

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