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Taking to skies for democracy, says EC as poll parties get airdropped in Jharkhand's Maoist turf

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Ranchi, May 11 (PTI) With around 36 hours remaining until voting begins in Jharkhand, dispatch of polling parties via trains and helicopters has commenced in Maoist-hit Singhbhum region, many areas of which are set to witness polling for the first time or after several decades.

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Singhbhum LS seat is also home to Saranda, Asia's densest Sal forest, which is one of the worst-hit left-wing extremism zones in the country.

"On Saturday, a total of 95 polling parties were dispatched via a special train from Chakradharpur to Rourkela. Upon reaching their destinations, namely Manoharpur, Jaraikela, and Posaita stations, they will continue their journey on vehicles and foot to reach their assigned polling stations," West Singhbhum deputy commissioner-cum-district election officer Kuldeep Chaudhary told PTI.

Chaudhary said as many as 78 polling parties were also dispatched using helicopters.

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"Three choppers were engaged simultaneously to ferry them to Maoist-hit and far-flung areas of Manoharpur and Jagannathpur assembly constituencies," he added.

"In order to conduct free and fair polls, we are live tracking EVMs and polling parties through GPS-enabled vehicles," he said, adding adequate security arrangements have been made and central forces including BSF and CAPF have arrived at Chakradharpur.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission in a post on X shared pictures, dispatches of polling parties and materials through train and said, "We are ready! Are you ready too. Polling parties in West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand getting dispatched to their polling centres through special trains." "Taking to the skies for democracy: Polling teams winging it to Jharkhand's remote corners. Ensuring Each Vote!," the EC wrote in another post.

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"We are committed to ensuring that no voter is left out... we have identified many areas where polling will be conducted for the first time or after nearly two decades as these locations were badly affected by Maoist insurgency," the EC said.

Polling stations such as Middle School, Nugdi, and Madhya Vidyalaya, Borero, will witness voting for the first time this election, the DC said.

"Many booths in challenging locations like Robokera, Binj, Thalkobad, Jaraikela, Roam, Rengrahatu, Hansabeda, and Chhotanagra have been earmarked for air dropping. In certain regions, polling parties will need to trek for 4-5 km. Our objective is to ensure comprehensive coverage, leaving no area untouched this time," Chaudhary said.

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Thalkobad and around two dozen other villages were earlier dubbed as "liberated zones" but the administration succeeded in establishing its presence through massive operations by security forces, including Operation Anaconda. A total of 15 new camps of security forces have been established in the region.

"Teams on foot have to reach cluster points and then go to polling stations. By 5.30 am on the polling date, all teams must reach the stations to conduct mock polling," he said.

Singhbhum, a reserved constituency for Scheduled Tribes, boasts 14.32 lakh voters, with 7.27 lakh being women.

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Geeta Kora, the incumbent MP and spouse of former chief minister Madhu Koda, has been nominated by the BJP, while MLA Joba Manjhi represents the INDIA bloc. Kora, formerly the sole Congress MP from Jharkhand, recently joined the BJP.

Singhbhum Lok Sabha constituency comprises six assembly constituencies — Seraikela, Chaibasa, Majhganon, Jagnathpur, Manoharpur, and Chakradharpur.

Apart from Seraikela, located in Seraikela-Kharsawan district, the remaining segments fall within West Singhbhum district.

Lok Sabha polls in Jharkhand are set to occur over four phases on May 13, 20, 25, and June 1. In the 2019 general elections, the BJP won 11 seats, with its ally AJSU securing one. Both the JMM and Congress also secured one seat each. PTI NAM MNB

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