Despite Maoist threats, Singhbhum records highest voter turnout in Jharkhand

Voting took place in three villages for the first time in 20 years
Singhbhum recorded the highest voting percentage of 63.14 per cent in the lok sabha elections
Singhbhum recorded the highest voting percentage of 63.14 per cent in the lok sabha elections

RANCHI: As the polling for the first round of polls in Jharkhand was concluded in Jharkhand on Monday, Singhbhum recorded the highest voting percentage of 63.14 per cent followed by Khunti with 65.82 per cent, Lohardaga with 62.60 per cent and Palamu with 59.99 per cent.

Interestingly, the three villages – Tirilposi, Rengdahatu and Boroi under Singhbhm Lok Sabha seat, witnessed polling for the first time in the last 20 years. According to police, Singhbhum had a maximum of 524 vulnerable booths and hence adequate deployment of security personnel was made during the polling on Monday. Chief Electoral Officer K Ravi Kumar also asserted that not a single incident of violence took place at any of the polling booths in Jharkhand. A few FIRs, however, were lodged for the violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) at a few places, including the Congress MLA Shilpi Neha Tirkey who allegedly was holding a public meeting outside the polling booth at Mandar under Khunti Lok Sabha seat.

Notably, since the region had Moist troubles for the last 20 years, the district administration in Singhbhum used to relocate the polling booths from these villages to safer zones. However, the police launched an intensive campaign against the Maoists by setting up CRPF camps in the area.

This year, for the Lok Sabha elections, as many as four polling booths were set up in Rengradahatu itself, having 1029 voters in Rengdahatu, 825 in Murmura, 1130 in Tensara and 1340 voters in Siamba, where the voting was conducted peacefully under tight security. According to the Assistant Commandant of CRPF, Jagannath Jena, these villages witnessed polling booths for the first time in the last 20 years, where voting was also conducted very peacefully.

"Earlier, the area being troubled with Maoist activities, polling booths were relocated to some other places due to security reasons,” said the CRPF Commandant. Since the polling booths were relocated to a distance of 7-25 km it was very difficult for the villagers to travel to such a long distance due to which most of them could not exercise their franchise, he added.

The CRPF Commandant said that the voters turned out in large numbers and polling was conducted peacefully for the entire day. Villagers exercised their franchise with enthusiasm in a free and fair atmosphere under tight security, he said.

Singhbhum also witnessed a few Maoist incidents where they cut down trees and blocked the road between Chhotanagra police station of Saranda forest and Hatnaburu-Marangponga under Digha Panchayat. Also, the Maoists have planted thousands of IEDs to check security forces enter the jungles, due to which regular incidents of blasts are taking place during operations.

Since November 2022, as many as four security personnel have been killed while 28 others were critically injured, besides claiming the lives of 12 civilians in IED blasts triggered by Maoists in Kolhan jungles. Interestingly, the Maoists have also distributed pamphlets in the villages adjacent to Kolhan jungles and warned villagers not to enter deep into the jungles as they may walk over an IED and lose their lives.

Meanwhile, long queues were seen since morning at the polling booths in the tribal belts of Singhbhum, Khunti and Lohardaga. Women, elderly and disabled voters looked excited while casting their votes. Tremendous enthusiasm was seen among the tribal voters in Khunti, especially among women who had come to vote in their traditional attire.

Despite the scorching heat, people in Palamu turned up to vote; still, minimum voter turnout was recorded in the constituency. A total of 45 candidates are in the fray for 4 seats in the first phase during the first round of polls in Jharkhand whose fate will be decided by 64 lakh 37 thousand 460 voters. Voting took place at 519 booths in all four Lok Sabha constituencies. Chief Minister Chamapai Soren and Union Minister Arjun Munda cast their votes in Saraikela Kharsawan along with their family members.

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The New Indian Express