NEW DELHI (Agencies) — India went on high security alert on Wednesday ahead of the start of its marathon election as a bomb blast on Tuesday, blamed on Maoist rebels, killed five people, including a BJP lawmaker, heightened fears of election bloodshed.
Some 80,000 troops, police and paramilitaries have been deployed in troubled Chhattisgarh state – where the attack was carried out – where voting starts on Thursday, state police chief D.M Awasthi said on Wednesday.
The Election Commission, which organises the world’s biggest democratic election with 900 million eligible voters choosing 543 MPs, insisted the attack would not change its schedule.
Voting began on Thursday across 91 Lok Sabha constituencies spread over 20 states and Union Territories as the first phase of the mega seven-phase electoral exercise kicked off.
In 10 states and two Union Territories — Andhra Pradesh (25), Telangana (17), Arunachal Pradesh (2), Meghalaya (2), Uttarakhand (5), Mizoram (1), Nagaland (1), Sikkim (1), Lakshadweep (1), and Andaman and Nicobar Islands (1), voting is happening in all parliamentary constituencies.
Polling also started in eight out of 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh, including Saharanpur, Kairana, Ghaziabad, Baghpat and Gautam Buddha Nagar, four – Aurangabad, Gaya, Nawada and Jamui – out of 40 seats in Bihar and two – Cooch Behar and Alipurduar – out of 42 seats in West Bengal.
Of Maharashtra’s 48 constituencies, voting in the first phase is happening in seven constituencies of Vidharbha, with the focus on Nagpur — the headquarters of the RSS — and Chandrapur, the hometown of its chief Mohan Bhagwat.
In Telangana, key constituencies where voting started include Nizamabad, Nalgonda, Khammam and Hyderabad.
Voting also began in five constituencies in Assam, four in Odisha, two in Jammu and Kashmir (Jammu and Baramulla) and one each of Chhattisgarh (Bastar), Manipur (Outer Manipur), and Tripura (Tripura West).
Voting for 543 Lok Sabha seats will be held in seven phases: April 11, April 18, April 23, April 29, May 6, May 12 and May 19. Counting will be done on May 23.