By Our Correspondent
RANCHI/JAMSHEDPUR: Polling for 13 seats in first phase of polling for Jharkhand Assembly elections were on Saturday began amid tight security.
Thirteen constituencies in six districts of Jharkhand on Saturday went to Assembly polls in the first of five phases, in which a state minister, eight sitting legislators and state PCC president are key contestants.
A 3.7 million-strong electorate, including 1.8 million women and five transgender voters, are eligible to exercise their franchise and will decide the fate of 189 candidates, including 15 women, in the first phase. Of the total candidates, 44 are facing criminal charges according to their affidavits; 59 are crorepatis.
Seats for which polling will take place are Chatra, Gumla, Bishunpur, Lohardaga, Manika, Latehar, Panki, Daltonganj, Bishrampur, Chhatarpur, Hussainabad, Garhwa and Bhawanathpur.
Of these, Chatra, Gumla, Lohardaga, Latehar and Garhwa are designated by the ministry of home affairs as affected by left wing extremism (LWE). Campaigning for these seats ended on Thursday.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government of Ragubar Das will seek a second term in the five phase election for the state’s 81 seats, when the results are declared on December 23. Voting will take place across 3,906 polling stations, out of which 989 will have webcasting facilities, an Election Commission release said. Polling personnel, deputed in remote areas, were being airlifted, EC officials said. A total of 1,097 booths have been declared hyper LWE sensitive, while 461 polling stations are LWE sensitive.
“We have made adequate security arrangements both for electors and polling personnel. A large number of security personnel have been deployed at all polling stations, besides heli-dropping and cluster arrangements have also been ensured,” said Vinay Kumar Choubey, chief electoral officer (CEO), Jharkhand.
Monitoring exercise is being carried out by flying squads to prevent violation of the Model Code of Conduct, such as distribution of cash, liquor and other inducements, the officials said. The BJP is contesting in 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.
Prominent candidates in the fray are BJP nominee and Jharkhand Health Minister Ramchandra Chandravanshi and Jharkhand PCC president and ex-IPS officer Rameshwar Oraon. Oraon is taking on ex-PCC chief and sitting legislator Sukhdeo Bhagat, after the latter joined the BJP recently.
Former BJP chief whip Radhakrishna Kishore, who was denied ticket from Chhatarpur, is contesting on All Jharkhand Students Union party ticket from the same seat.
Polling will begin at 7 am and conclude at 3 pm, the release said. 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.
The first phase follows recent attacks in Latehar and Palamu districts last week, in which security personnel and two persons were killed. Security agencies suspect the attacks were carried out by Maoists. Four policemen, including a sub- inspector, were killed in the Latehar attack late on Friday evening when rebels targeted a police patrol vehicle.
The district administration had despatched a total of 125 polling parties to cluster centres by three IAF choppers two days ahead of the election.A total of 83 parties were air dropped in Mahuadand block, 28 in Garu and another 14 in Barwadih block of the Manika assembly constituency.