Sporadic incidents of violence were reported from some of the 13 constituencies which went to polls, officials said.
The overall turnout is likely to increase as voters who entered the polling stations by 3 pm will be allowed to exercise their franchise, they said.
A total of 37,83,055 electorate, including 18,01,356 women and five third-gender voters were eligible to exercise their franchise in the first phase across six districts, which began at 7 am, Election Commission officials told PTI.
Key Highlights :
Polling unaffected despite sporadic violence
Additional Director General of Police Murari Lal Meena said Naxalites exploded a bomb near a culvert in the forests of Gumla district, but there was no casualty or damage. “The explosion occurred near the culvert in the forests between Banalat and Biranpur villages under Bishunpur Assembly constituency of the district,” Meena said. He said peaceful polling was underway in all 13 constituencies.
Palamau Deputy Commissioner-cum-Returning Officer Shantanu Agrahari said a minor clash broke out between two groups near Kosiyara polling station in Daltonganj Assembly constituency. Congress candidate KN Tripathi accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Alok Chaurasia and his supporters of looting the booths and allegedly tried to enter the polling booth with a revolver in his hand.
#WATCH Jharkhand: Congress candidate KN Tripathi brandishes a gun during clash between supporters of BJP candidate Alok Chaurasia & Tripathi’s supporters. Tripathi was allegedly stopped by BJP candidate’s supporters from going to polling booths, in Kosiyara village of Palamu. pic.twitter.com/Ziu8eCq42z
— ANI (@ANI) November 30, 2019
This led to protests, with agitators breaking the window panes of a police vehicle, the returning officer said, adding that the situation was quickly brought under control. Police seized a pistol and three cartridges which were allegedly in Tripathi’s possession, Agrahari said.
Highest turnout in Gumla, lowest in Chatra
Till 3 pm, Chatra constituency recorded the lowest turnout ( 56.59 percent) while the highest turnout was recorded in the Gumla constituency (67.30 percent).
EC officials said women and youths were among the early voters in the first of the five-phase elections to the 81-member Jharkhand Assembly. In Latehar, voting in two booths started late after the EVMs developed a technical snag, reported News18.
#JharkhandAssemblyPolls : People cast their votes at a polling booth in Lohardaga. #FirstPhase pic.twitter.com/iOhBVBPcCM
— ANI (@ANI) November 30, 2019
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Raghubar Das and Union Home Minister Amit Shah urged voters to exercise their franchise in order to keep “Jharkhand on the path of development.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi too appealed to people of the state to cast their vote to “enrich” democracy.
झारखंड विधानसभा चुनाव के लिए आज मतदान का पहला चरण है। सभी मतदाताओं से मेरा अनुरोध है कि वे अपना वोट जरूर डालें।
Phase 1 of the Jharkhand elections is in progress. I urge those whose constituencies go to the polls today to vote in large numbers & enrich the festival of democracy.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) November 30, 2019
Thirteen Assembly constituencies — Chatra, Gumla, Bishunpur, Lohardaga, Manika, Latehar, Panki, Daltonganj, Bishrampur, Chhatarpur, Hussainabad, Garhwa and Bhawanathpur — went to polls in the first phase. State Chief Electoral Officer Vinay Kumar Choubey said 4,892 polling stations had been set up, of which 1,262 had webcasting facilities.
Meena said 1,097 polling stations in Naxal-affected areas were marked as hypersensitive and 461 polling stations as sensitive.
Palamau divisional commissioner Manoj Kumar Jha said the timing of voting had been fixed between 7 am and 3 pm as several polling stations are in remote areas, and also due to the shorter days in winter.
Key candidates in fray
The fate of 189 candidates, including 15 women nominees, will be decided in the first phase of the polling. The Bhawanathpur constituency has the maximum of 28 contestants, while Chatra has the lowest with nine.
Key candidates in the fray are BJP nominee and state health minister Ramchandra Chandravanshi from Bishrampur and state Congress president Rameshwar Oraon from the Lohardaga seat. Oraon is taking on the former state Congress chief Sukhdeo Bhagat after the latter joined the BJP recently.
Former BJP chief whip Radhakrishna Kishore, who was denied ticket from Chhatarpur, is contesting on an All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) party ticket from the same seat.
Among others who deserted their parties are ex-Rashtriya Janata Dal MLA Janardhan Paswan, who secured the saffron party’s nomination from Chatra seat and former health minister and Independent MLA Bhanu Pratap Sahi has also joined the BJP to contest the polls on the party’s ticket from his sitting constituency Bhawanathpur.
JMM general secretary Suprio Bhattacharya told PTI the “defectors lacked discipline and ideology”. “What matters to them is personal aspiration and not political ideology. The parties they have joined should think twice before nominating them for Assembly polls,” he said.
Kushwaha Shiv Pujan Mehta, who won the Hussainabad segment as a BSP candidate in 2014, is fighting from the seat on an AJSU ticket
The BJP, which is seeking a second straight win under the leadership of Das, is contesting in 12 seats in the first phase while it is supporting Independent candidate Vinod Singh from Hussainabad. The AJSU is contesting on its own.
Challenging the BJP is the Opposition alliance of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), the Congress and the RJD . While the Congress is contesting in six seats in the first phase, the JMM is fighting in four and the RJD in three constituencies in the first phase.
The other parties contesting the elections are Babulal Marandi’s Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik), Janata Dal (United) and the Left parties. The rest of the four phases for the 81-member Assembly will be held on 7, 12, 16 and 20 December. Counting is scheduled on 23 December.
With inputs from agencies