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Thursday, April 16, 2009


Round one of the 2009 Lok Sabha elections ended on Thursday with
millions queuing up in 17 states and union territories to vote in
a new government amid Maoist violence that marred the democratic
exercise in several places and left at least 17 dead.

The world's largest democratic exercise began early at 0700 hrs IST
and ended at most places at 1700 hrs IST. A majority of the states
reported moderate turnout despite the Maoist attacks on polling
centres and security personnel.

People voted in 124 constituencies to pick a new 545-seat Lok Sabha
in the first step of a four-phased exercise that is widely expected
to throw up a split verdict. The Maoist violence affected a dozen

About 143 million of India's 714 million voters were eligible to
exercise their franchise in the first of five rounds in 185,552 polling
centres. A total of 1,715 candidates were in the fray, with over 300,000
electronic voting machines used.

Tens of thousands of election staff and security personnel kept vigil
as people voted in all the constituencies of Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh,
Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Chhattisgarh, Andaman and Nicobar Island
and Lakshwadeep. Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and
Kashmir, Maharashtra, Manipur, Orissa and Jharkhand saw partial voting.

But it was a bloody start to the ambitious exercise with Bihar,
Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Maharashtra seeing violence and
intimidation as Maoist guerrillas tried to implement their election
boycott through the barrel of the gun.

At least 17 people were killed as cadres of the outlawed Communist
Party of India-Maoist, which seeks to carry out an agrarian-based
revolution, targeted polling officials and security personnel across
the insurgency hit states.

Landmine blasts in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand saw 14 people getting
killed. In Jharkhand's Latehar area, seven Border Security Force (BSF)
personnel and two others heading to an election centre were killed
when their bus was blown up.

In neighbouring Chhattisgarh, five polling officials died when Maoists
detonated a landmine in Rajnandgaon district. A paramilitary trooper was
shot dead in an exchange of bullets in the Maoist stronghold Dantewada.

In adjoining Bihar, a policeman and a Home Guard were killed when over a
dozen Maoists opened fire at a polling station in Gaya district.

Reports of gun battles, booths being raided, voters being attacked and
electronic voting machines being torched came in from several places in
the affected states.