• Sunday, September 21, 2014

Indian polls face security challenge

Maoist rebels kill 14 as election held in four states; Rahul files nominations

Star Report

Maoist rebels killed 14 people in two poll-related blasts yesterday in an insurgency-hit region of central India, police said, highlighting the major security challenges faced in staging the nation's marathon general elections.
The violence, the deadliest since the elections began last Monday, came as Indians cast ballots in the southern resort state of Goa and in the far-flung northeast in another round of the multi-phase elections that wind up May 12 with results four days later.
Most of those killed yesterday were charged with ensuring election voter safety or other polling-related tasks.
Seven polling officials died when Maoists blew up their bus in the state of Chhattisgarh, senior police officer Gurjinder Pal Singh told AFP. Five others were injured.
There was no voting in Chhattisgarh yesterday -- polling began there on April 10 with two more rounds scheduled in the state on April 17 and April 24.
However, in Goa, Assam, Tripura and Sikkim, hundreds of thousands cast their vote in the fifth phase of elections, marking the halfway mark in India's 10-phase staggered polling.
Elsewhere, voting resumed in the fourth stage of the general election yesterday in four states - Goa,  Assam, Tripura and Sikkim, reports BBC.
Sikkim, a tiny Himalayan state, is also holding local elections, including the contest for a seat in the regional assembly which is reserved for a Buddhist monk.
The first key day of polling saw millions of Indians vote on Thursday in 14 states.
The governing Congress party, led by Rahul Gandhi, is pitted against the main opposition BJP, led by the Hindu nationalist, Narendra Modi.
However, the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi (Common Man's) Party, with its stronghold in the capital, Delhi, is mounting a strong challenge.
Rahul Gandhi, scion of Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, today entered the parliamentary election fray by filing his nomination papers from Amethi constituency in Uttar Pradesh.
Rahul, 43, has represented in Lok Sabha twice and expressed confidence about retaining it for the third straight time, writes our New Delhi correspondent.
Rahul is expected to be challenged by Bharatiya Janata Party's candidate Smriti Irani, a leading actress who shot into fame by portraying the role of Sita in the popular TV serial "Ramayana".
Rahul was accompanied by his mother and party president Sonia Gandhi, sister Priyanka and her husband Robert Vadra when he filed nomination papers before the Returning Officer.          
Later, interacting with the media, he expressed confidence about victory from the constituency.
He said he has family relations with Amethi and "we will have a good victory."
Rahul said he had focussed on three things for development of Amethi -- working with women's bodies, connecting the area with national highways and railways and developing a food park.
He will focus on these issues in the future also to generate more employment for youths, he said.
Rahul along with Sonia, Priyanka and Vadra reached Amethi after conducting a roadshow through adjoining Sultanpur where his cousin Varun Gandhi is contesting on a BJP ticket.
Amethi is going to polls on May 7.
Meanwhile, the value of Rahul Gandhi's total assets has doubled to Rs 9.4 crore in the last five years. However, he does not own a car.
In the affidavit filed by him along with his nomination papers today, he has disclosed that the total value of his real estate assets (including the advance of Rs 6.8 crore paid on property) has increased from Rs 4.4 crore in 2009 to Rs 8.2 crore, an increase of about 86 per cent.
'Landmine blasts'
"The Maoists triggered the landmine blasts," Singh, a key official in ensuring election safety in the state, told AFP.
Five security men who were carrying out an election safety sweep and who hitched a ride in an ambulance were killed in another landmine blast, reports AFP.
The ambulance driver and a paramedic were also killed in that blast, which created a huge crater. Four men were injured two "very seriously" Singh said.
"The security men had been securing the area for polling teams to travel," Singh said.
The Maoists have called for a boycott of the elections.
The doubling of the total value of the assets from Rs 4.7 crore to Rs 9.4 crore has been primarily due to appreciation in property prices.
The number of real estate assets owned by Gandhi has declined since 2009 as he as sold the two shops he owned in a mall and exited another agricultural property. He continues to own a share in the inherited farm in Sultanpur village in Delhi.

 

Published: 12:01 am Sunday, April 13, 2014

Last modified: 7:25 pm Sunday, April 13, 2014

TAGS: BJP Rahul Gandhi AFP Bharatiya Janata Party Maoist rebels poll-related blasts insurgency-hit region highlighting security challenges

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