NEW DELHI: Maoist rebels killed three soldiers guarding polling officials in central India on Wednesday, highlighting security concerns in the world’s biggest elections as the second phase of voting got under way.
The rebels staged the attack in the country’s insurgency-wracked center one day ahead of polling in Chhattisgarh state as voters in the restive northeast of the country cast their ballots.
Elsewhere election frontrunner Narendra Modi waved to thousands of supporters of his opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as he filed his papers to stand from the Vadodara constituency in western Gujarat.
The BJP is expected to sweep to power at the elections for the 543-seat parliament at a time of low economic growth as well as seething anger over corruption and rising food prices.
In central Chhattisgarh, police said rebels attacked a convoy of paramilitary commandos as they were returning from escorting election officials to a polling station, about 415 km south of state capital Raipur.
“In a gun battle with the Maoists, three commandos of the central paramilitary forces were killed in Chintagufa area,” chief of the state’s anti-Maoist operations Rajinder Kumar Vij told AFP. Three soldiers were also injured.
They were the first election-related deaths which underscored the security challenges facing organisers in India where separatist and Maoist insurgencies afflict large parts of the northeast, northwest and forested central areas.
Another three soldiers were injured elsewhere in Chhattisgarh when they stepped on a mine laid by rebels who have been waging a decades-long campaign for greater land and other rights for tribal groups, Vij said.
Security was tight in constituencies in the four small states close to the disputed border with China which were part of the second wave of voting in the election, which has been staggered to allow security forces time to redeploy.