Suspected communist rebels aiming to disrupt India’s parliamentary elections blew up a jeep carrying polling officials in eastern India, killing five people as part of a wave of violence that has left at least 22 dead, officials said yesterday.
Thursday’s land mine attack in Bihar state came just after voting ended in the eastern strongholds of communist guerrillas who have fought for decades, claiming to defend the rights of poor farmers and landless workers. They often attack police, landlords and local politicians, as well as poor villagers they accuse of working with authorities.
The rebels, who claim to be inspired by Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong (毛澤東), threatened to kill citizens participating in the election, which they dismissed as a “fake exercise.”
Four police officers and one election official died and the jeep driver was hospitalized with serious injuries in the Muzzafarpur district, nearly 75km east of the Bihar state capital of Patna, said police official Neelmani, who uses one name.
They were returning to their headquarters with electronic voting machines and other election materials.
The attackers fled, Neelmani said. At least 17 people were killed by suspected insurgents last week in the first round of voting in central and eastern India.
A brutal heat wave sweeping much of India, together with threats of violence from the communist guerrillas, kept millions away from the polls during Thursday’s second round of voting. India’s five phases of voting will end on May 13.
Results are expected on May 16. With more than 700 million voters, India normally holds staggered elections for logistic and security reasons. Polls indicate neither the Congress party, which leads the governing coalition, nor the main opposition, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, will win enough seats in the 543-seat lower house of parliament to rule on their own.
That means the election will likely leave India with a shaky coalition government cobbled together from across the political spectrum — a situation giving the next prime minister little time to deal with a growing number of challenges like the economic crisis.