Voting began in 18 Assembly constituencies in the first phase of Chhattisgarh elections, today, under a tight security blanket comprising over 1.25 lakh police and paramilitary personnel.
Early polling began early for 10 out of 18 Assembly seats considering Naxal threat. A poll official said polling in nine constituencies of Bastar division and one in Rajnandgaon district began from 7 am and will conclude at 3 pm, while in the rest of the constituencies the polling time is from 8 am to 5 pm.
Polling time in 10 constituencies of Chhatisgarh- Mohla-Manpur, Antagarh, Bhanupratappur, Kanker, Keshkal, Kondagaon, Narayanpur, Dantewada, Bijapur and Konta — is from 7 am to 3 pm, due to the Naxal menace. In the remaining eight constituencies — Khairgarh, Dongargarh, Rajnandgaon, Dongargaon, Khujji, Bastar, Jagdalpur and Chitrakot — it is from 8 am till 5 pm.
Naxals had triggered an IED blast on Sunday, a day before the polling, in which one BSF jawan was martyred. Of the 18 seats going to polling in the first phase, 12 are reserved for Scheduled Tribe (ST) while one is for Scheduled Caste (SC) category. In the first phase, 190 candidates are in the fray and as per electoral rolls, there are 31,80,014 voters. As many as 4,336 polling booths have been set up for the first phase and 19,079 polling personnel have been deployed.
Three IEDs have been detected near a polling booth in Konta’s Banda. CRPF bomb disposal squad is now in the process of defusing them. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh has urged Chhattisgarh youths, women and senior citizens to cast their votes in the Chhattisgarh Assembly elections. According to Election Commission, out of the total of 4336 polling stations, 53 reported delayed start of polling due to technical reasons.
Naxal outfits have given calls for a boycott of the election and have executed over half-a-dozen attacks in the last 15 days, three of the major ones which left 13 people dead, including a video journalist of national broadcaster Doordarshan who was covering the election campaign. Both the BJP and Congress have been intensely campaigning in the state with top leadership from both parties, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, addressing a series of rallies to woo the voters.