48% turnout for Jamhedpur LS bye-election amidst Maoist "bandh"

Around 48 per cent of the 1.3 million-strong electorate exercised their franchise amidst a general strike called by Maoists in the bye-election to the Jamshedpur Lok Sabha seat.

Polling began at 0700 hours and ended at 1500 hours today and was by and large peaceful.

Only nine per cent of the voters had turned out in the first two hours but polling gained momentum till 1300 hours before dropping again in the final stages.

"We do not have complete figures as yet but the voting percentage was higher in rural areas as compared to the urban parts. The urban voters should be blamed for the low turnout," Assistant Chief Electoral Officer Anjani Kumar Mishra said.

Defying the "bandh" called by the ultras, long queues of voters, including a large number of women, were seen at several booths in the Naxalite-hit Patamada and Ghatshila areas.

However, the ultras tried to terrorise the voters by opening fire near booth number 161 in Maheshpur area under Gurabanda police station of Ghatshila assembly segment.

At some places, including Bagbera area in the city, voters boycotted the polling protesting lack of civic amenities in their localities.

The total number of voters in the constituency was 13,978,97, including 6,61,610 women. A total of 1,626 booths were set up to decide the fate of 20 candidates, including Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state president Dineshanad Goswami, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha vice-president Sudhir Mahto, Congress MLA Banna Gupta, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha candidate and former IPS officer Ajay Kumar, Trinamool Congress' Suman Mahto and All Jharkhand Students' Union's Astik Mahto.

Counting of votes will be taken up on July 4 and the result is expected by that afternoon.

The election was necessitated by the resignation of Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda from the Lok Sabha after winning the Kharsawan assembly bye-election in February.

The Chief Minister had defeated Ms Suman Mahto of JMM by a margin of over 1,19,000 votes in the previous election on this seat which is said to be a traditional battlefield of the two parties.

Proscribed Naxal outfit CPI (Maoist) had called for a bandh today in protest against the capital punishment to four of their members in connection with the 2007 Chilkari massacre in which 20 people, including a son of former Chief Minister Babulal Marandi, were shot dead. However, the polling was not affected by their call.

In other parts of the state, the ultras wreaked havoc. They torched six vehicles of a private company in mineral-rich Lohardaga district last night while a fierce encounter was on in the Naraki forest area in Hazaribagh district.


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