(PTI) Polling for the fourth phase of the five-phased Jharkhand Assembly election began in 15 constituencies on Monday.
The voting began at 7 am, Election Commission (EC) officials said.
It will conclude at 3 pm at Jamua, Bagodar, Giridih, Dumri, and Tundi, while for the rest of the seats, the voting will continue till 5 pm, they added.
The seats going to the polls in this round are Deoghar (SC), Jamua (SC), Chandankiyari (SC), Madhupur, Bagodar, Gandey, Giridih, Dumri, Bokaro, Sindri, Nirsa, Dhanbad, Jharia, Tundi and Baghmara, spread across four districts.
Jharkhand Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Vinay Kumar Choubey on Sunday said armed forces were deployed in the Naxal-hit areas.
Of the 6,101 polling stations, 587 were “critical” and 405 “sensitive” in the Naxal-affected constituencies, while the non-Naxal-hit seats had 546 “critical” and 2,665 “sensitive” polling stations, he said.
A total of 47,85,009 voters, including 22,44,134 women and 81 third-gender voters, are eligible to decide the fate of 221 nominees, including 23 women candidates.
As many as 34,106 voters were aged 80 years and above, while there were 66,321 differently-abled voters, the CEO said.
He said 2,504 wheelchairs and 4,039 volunteers will help the differently-abled voters, adding that a transport facility was being provided to bring them to the polling stations and drop them back.
Webcasting facilities will be there in 2,122 polling stations, while 183 model polling stations were set up and only women personnel will conduct polling in 70 polling stations, the CEO said.
More than one electronic voting machine (EVM) will be used in four Assembly constituencies as there are more than 16 candidates in these seats, he added.
There will be 9,902 ballot units, 7,628 control units, and 7,931 VVPAT machines, Choubey said.
The key candidates in the fray are Land and Revenue Minister Amar Kumar Bauri (BJP) and Labour Minister Raj Paliwar (BJP) from the Chandankiyari and Madhupur seats respectively.
While Bauri is facing All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU) Party’s Umakant Razzak, Paliwar’s opponent is Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’s (JMM) Haji Hussain Ansari.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), seeking to retain power, is contesting in all the 15 seats in this phase.
Its ally AJSU Party is contesting on its own for the first time since the creation of Jharkhand in 2000.
Challenging the saffron party is the opposition alliance of JMM, Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), which has fielded candidates in accordance with its pre-poll seat-sharing arrangements.
Former minister and Congress candidate Mannan Malik is contesting the polls from Dhanbad, while another former minister and Congress nominee Jaleshwar Mahato is trying his luck from Baghmara against sitting BJP MLA Dhullu Mahato.
Former minister and JMM candidate Mathura Prasad Mahato is contesting from Tundi.
Three-time MLA Arup Chatterjee is seeking re-election from Nirsa, where he is facing a challenge from former minister and BJP candidate Aparna Sengupta.
The other parties that have fielded candidates are the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik), the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Marxist Coordination Committee, the Janata Dal (United), the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), the CPI(ML-Liberation) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Of the total 81 Assembly seats, polling has been held for 50 in the first three phases between November 30 and December 12.
The fifth and final phase of polling for 16 seats will be held on December 20 and the counting of votes will be taken up on December 23.