Poll officials headed for far-flung areas of Palamau constituency board an IAF chopper at Chiyanki airstrip in Daltonganj on Tuesday. Picture by Saikat Chattopadhya
Ranchi, April 8: The above-average voter turnout in Assam and Tripura yesterday on Day One of Lok Sabha elections 2014 have buoyed hopes for Jharkhand, which opens its poll account on Thursday (April 10) in four sensitive seats of Lohardaga, Palamau, Koderma and Chatra.
According to the office of the state chief electoral officer, the four seats have 7,058 polling booths, with 2,134 of them dubbed “highly sensitive” and 2,312 “sensitive”.
Campaigning at four constituencies ended at 4pm on a day coinciding with Ramnavami. Police appeared confident about “setting the right tone”, the few alarms notwithstanding, including yesterday’s haul of two high-intensity landmines in Palamau’s Doma and Ararwa village and today’s bomb panic in Lohardaga’s Kuru that proved a hoax.
Across rebel-dominated seats, the CPI(Maoist) called for poll boycott. Police are realistic about “pressure tactics” in a few pockets, such as Gumla Assembly seat under Lohardaga constituency.
But director-general of police Rajeev Kumar, touring extensively with his team, said: “We are in complete control of the situation and confident about setting the right tone for Lok Sabha polls in the first four constituencies on April 10.”
He added area domination exercises, long-range patrolling and recoveries were on in full swing. So far, Jharkhand Police apart, CRPF, BSF and Indian Reserve Battalions had been deployed in the areas.
“I can’t divulge the number of security personnel due to obvious security reasons. But let me assure you they are adequate and doing a thorough job for tension-free polling on April 10,” he added.
For instance, as Lohardaga SP Mrityunjay Kumar said, today’s bomb scare turned out to be two iron balls that surfaced after years.
Security apart, 11 helicopters have been deputed on poll duty, including flying out EVMs, in Palamau, Lohardaga and Chatra
“Seven helicopters will fly EVMs and poll officers for Palamau,” Palamau SP Y.S. Ramesh said.
Chatra and Lohardaga will have two choppers each. Koderma, with more motorable roads, is also less sensitive, and won’t need aerial services.
Prod a little deeper, and policemen admit to being uneasy about Khunti, which goes to polls on April 17.
“Khunti is in bad shape,” a top policeman told The Telegraph today. “Jharkhand Party candidate Anosh Ekka has connived with the PLFI to create an ugly fear psychosis. In other areas, people are in a mood to vote in good numbers. In Khunti, people are scared.”
On March 31, an FIR was slapped against Anosh by Khunti police for helping few wanted PLFI members escape in his vehicle.
Anosh, on bail in a disproportionate assets case, is a political heavyweight in the dirt-poor area. “We are unable to take proactive action against him (Anosh) for acting in connivance with PLFI because no villager dares lodge a formal complaint,” the officer said.
Still, DGP Kumar said compared to last polls, things looked better now. “We have sensitised security forces about local conditions and imminent threats,” he added.
An upbeat chief electoral officer (Jharkhand) P.K. Jajoria said: “Good turnout in Assam and Tripura have fuelled similar hopes in Jharkhand.”