New Delhi: In a series of co-ordinated strikes across the much talked about Red Corridor – areas spread across several states of the country affected by left extremist violence – Naxalites have attacked polling booths and police and para-military forces in a desperate attempt to stymie the democratic process. Though the number of such attacks, and the co-ordination affected by various left extremist groups spread across the country, has surprised observers, it would also mark a success for the strategy of the country's Election Commission in seeking to wrap up elections in left extremist areas in the first phase of the poll itself.
Naxalites- a generic term describing a myriad group of left extremist groups – have struck in the states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Orissa and Maharashtra causing at least a dozen casualties to police and par-military forces, besides looting of polling equipment and arms. Areas of these states, along with that of Andhra Pradesh, which are contiguous to each other, together constitute the Red Corridor.
Meanwhile, agencies report that voting across the country in 124 parliamentary constituencies, has begun on a moderate note. The first phase of polls covers in constituencies spread across 15 states and two union territories.
A number of political heavy weights will see their fate decided in this phase of polls. They include Lalu Prasad Yadav, Murli Manohar Joshi, Yashwant Sinha, K Chandrasekar Rao, Praful Patel, Renuka Chowdhury, D Purandeswari, Santosh Mohan Dev, Meira Kumar, Rameshwar Oraon, E Ahamed, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, former UN under-secretary general Shashi Tharoor and actress Vijaya Shanti.
As many as 1,715 candidates, including 122 women, are in the fray in the first phase. The votes will be cast through Electronic Voting Machines
Other four phases of Lok Sabha polls are due on 23 and 30 April and 7 and 13 May.
Elections are also being held for State assemblies in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.
While all 20 parliamentary seats in Kerala, 11 in Chhattisgarh and two each in Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya are going to polls in the first phase, the outcome of 13 out of 40 seats are in Bihar, 16 out of 80 in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra 13 (48), Andhra Pradesh 22 (42), Jharkhand 6 (14), Orissa 10 (21), Assam 3 (14), Manipur 1 (2) and Jammu and Kashmir 1 (6) will also be decided today.
The lone parliamentary seats in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Mizoram and Nagaland will also be covered in the first phase.
Meanwhile, Varun Gandhi, BJP's candidate for the Pilibhit constituency in Uttar Pradesh, booked by the State government under provisions of the National Security Act on March 28 on charges of inciting communal passion by making provocative speeches during election meetings, has been released on parole by the Supreme Court.
The country's apex court had earlier described the detention of Varun Gandhi under the stringent provisions of the NSA Act as a "drastic step." The young political contender has been asked to provide an undertaking to Etah Jail authorities, under whom he was serving his detention, that he will not make any "inflammatory or provocative speech that causes communal disharmony."
He will also have to file an identical undertaking before the Supreme Court by Monday.
The Supreme Court said it was not satisfied with the contents of undertaking given by Varun on Tuesday when he promised not to make any provocative speeches.
The filing of nomination papers for Pilibhit, the constituency for which Varun is a BJP candidate, starts from 17 April.