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An estimated 62.87 per cent votes were cast when voting ended on 30 November 2019 in the first of the five-phase Jharkhand assembly elections in 13 constituencies, amid sporadic incidents of violence, officials said. The percentage 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 of polling across six districts, which began at 7 am, Election Commission (EC) officials said. 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 fate of 189 candidates, including 15 women nominees, will be decided in the first phase of the polling in Chatra, Gumla, Bishunpur, Lohardaga, Manika, Latehar, Panki, Daltonganj, Bishrampur, Chhatarpur, Hussainabad, Garhwa and Bhawanathpur. The Bhawanathpur constituency has the maximum of 28 contestants, while Chatra has the lowest with nine. Jharkhand Chief Electoral Officer Vinay Kumar Choubey said a total of 4,892 polling stations have been set up, out of which 1,262 would have webcasting facilities. Meena said a total of 1,097 polling stations in Naxal-affected areas were marked as hypersensitive and 461 polling stations as sensitive.

Key candidates in the fray were Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nominee and state Health Minister Ramchandra Chandravanshi from Bishrampur and state Congress president Rameshwar Oraon from the Lohardaga seat. Oraon was taking on the former state Congress chief Sukhdeo Bhagat after the latter joined the BJP recently. Former BJP chief whip Radhakrishna Kishore, was contesting on an All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) party ticket from the same seat. The BJP, which was seeking a second straight win under the leadership of Chief Minister Raghubar Das, was contesting in 12 seats in the first phase while it is supporting Independent candidate Vinod Singh from Hussainabad. The AJSU party was contesting on its own.

Challenging the BJP is the opposition alliance of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal. While the Congress is contesting in six seats in thefirst 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 December 7, 12, 16 and 20. Counting is scheduled on December 23.

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