Over 45.26 lakh voters will on Monday decide the fate of 59 candidates in the first phase of polls for three Lok Sabha constituencies in Jharkhand amidst tight security and air surveillance. The three constituencies, all won by the BJP in 2014 elections, are Lohardaga (ST), Palamu (SC) and Chatra.
As there are some Naxal pockets in Palamu and Chatra, the borders with Bihar have been sealed and adequate security arrangements have been made for the polling, an official said. Jharkhand Chief Electoral Officer L Khiangte told a press conference here that there are a total 45,26,693 electorate for Lohardaga, Chatra and Palamau Lok Sabha seats and 6,072 polling stations for the three seats going for polls on Monday from 7 am to 4 pm. A total 25,727 polling personnel have reached their polling centres while some personnel deputed at 137 polling stations were airdropped as their destinations are situated in remote areas, he said.
Due to security reasons, Khiangte added, a total 132 polling stations were relocated with the consent of political parties and candidates, Khiangte said. Among the total polling stations, 2092 are hyper sensitive and 2710 are sensitive across the three constituencies, he said. An air ambulance will be available at the Birsa Munda Airport here from this evening till April 30 evening while cashless medical treatment would be provided for election-related cases, he said. Inspector General of Police (Operation) Ashish Batra said that 200 companies of central paramilitary forces, 300 companies of various state police forces and 4500 home guards have been deployed to oversee voting in the state. He said five helicopters have begun air surveillance. Since the notification of elections on March 10, there was continuous anti-naxal operations, four encounters took place with three rebels being gunned down and 41 naxalites arrested, the IGP said. Huge quantity of weapons, landmines and 190 kg explosives were seized, besides Rs 2.26 crore cash being recovered, he said.
Among the contestants, Union Minister of State for Tribal Affairs Sudarshan Bhagat is seeking re-election from the Lohardaga(ST) seat. He is pitted against Sukhdeo Bhagat, Congress MLA and Mahagathbandhan candidate. In Palamu, it is a straight contest between the BJP and the 'Mahagathbandhan' (grand alliance). Former Jharkhand police chief and BJP candidate Vishnu Dayal Ram is facing challenge from RJD's Ghuram Ram, supported by the Mahagathbandhan, comprising Congress, JMM and Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik).
The RJD has fielded Subhas Yadav in Chatra, resulting in a friendly fight with the Congress nominee, Manoj Yadav, there. The BJP has re-nominated its sitting MP Sunil Kumar Singh from the seat. Senior BJP leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah had campaigned asking the people to re-elect the NDA to take forward the developmental works and protect the country's security. No prominent national level leader of the opposition parties had campaigned in the three seats. Lok Sabha elections in 14 parliamentary constituencies of Jharkhand will be held in four phases