Ranchi/New Delhi, Nov 25 (IANS) Jharkhand voters Tuesday defied a poll boycott call by Maoists and turned up in large numbers to cast their ballot in the first of the five-phase assembly elections.
Voting took place in 13 of the 81 assembly constituencies in six Maoist-affected districts. Over three million voters were eligible to cast their ballot, of whom about 1.8 million exercised their franchise.
Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha, who briefed the media about the Jharkhand elections in Delhi, said the polling percentage in 13 constituencies that went to the polls was 61.92 percent.
He said these constituencies saw 58 percent polling in the 2009 assembly polls as well as in the Lok Sabha elections.
Voter turnout was good in Maoist affected areas despite a boycott call.
The young and the old were seen queueing up at polling stations.
An election official told IANS in Ranchi: "The highest turnout was in Bhavnathpur with 69.6 percent, while the lowest was in Chatra with 53.85 percent. Polling was by and large peaceful."
The fate of 199 candidates was sealed in the electronic voting machines (EVMs). A total of 3,939 polling booths were set up for the first phase.
As many as 1,752 polling stations were declared super-sensitive and 1,104 sensitive. Webcasting was done in 263 polling stations.
Polling began at 7 a.m. and ended at 3 p.m.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and the Bahujan Samaj Party contested in 12 constituencies each, the Congress in seven and its alliance partner Rashtriya Janata Dal in six.
State Rural Development Minister K.N. Tripathi, the Congress's state president Sukhdeo Bhagat, and former minister and Janata Dal-United candidate Sudha Chowdhary were among the prominent contenders in this round of polling.
On a day ballotting took place in a part of Jharkhand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured the state of its development at a public rally in Chaibasa.
"Give a clear mandate to the BJP in Jharkhand and I promise development of the state," he said and added that India is praised in the world today, and Jharkhand will also be praised if the people of the state vote for a stable government.
Modi reached out to the state's tribal population and said: "Wherever there is tribal population, BJP is forming government."
He cited the example of states such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, all of which have a tribal population and a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government.
He said Jharkhand can become a developed state as it is rich in natural resources, minerals, land and mines.
"I want the people of the state to become rich as its land is rich," he said.
This was Modi's second rally in Jharkhand.
--Indo-Asian News service