Over 67 per cent polling in Naxal-hit areas of Chhattisgarh
The overall polling percentage in the last election to the 90-member Chhattisgarh assembly was 66 per cent
Raipur: Over 67 per cent polling was today witnessed in the first phase of Chhattisgarh assembly elections in eight Maoist-hit districts, which witnessed sporadic incidents of violence that left a CRPF jawan dead.
Amid unprecedented security arrangements, gunbattles erupted at 14 places today with Maoists, who had called for a boycott of elections, attacking poll parties and security personnel while a total of 78 Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were recovered in 18 constituencies lying in the Naxal hotbeds of Bastar and Rajnandgaon in the last three days.
“Till 5 PM, 67 per cent polling was recorded and the figure may go up as queues were witnessed at a few places in five assembly constituencies where polling ended at 5 PM. The final figure will be available after polling parties return,” Chhattisgarh Chief Electoral officer Sunil Kumar Kajur said.
The overall polling percentage in the last election to the 90-member Chhattisgarh assembly was 66 per cent. After a slow start, voting picked up as the day progressed and the tribal-dominated region witnessed a large turnout.
Rajnandgaon, the constituency of Chief Minister Raman Singh, recorded the highest 79 per cent voting out of 18 constituencies while one of the worst Naxal-hit constituencies Bijapur witnessed the lowest 24 per cent voting.
“There was visible enthusiasm among voters in Naxal-hit districts of Chhattisgarh inspite of threats by Naxals and amid sporadic incidents of violence,” Deputy Election Commissioner R Balakrishnan said.
Naxals ambushed a team of election personnel when they were returning after conclusion of polling in Katekalyan area of Dantewada district in south Chhattisgarh, killing Central Reserve Police Force jawan B Joseph of 186 battalion.
Over ten bombs, including a 10 kg pipe bomb, were recovered since morning. A police personnel was injured when a ‘pressure bomb’ set by Naxals exploded in Kanke.
Voting could not take place in two polling stations in Antagarh assembly constituency in Kanker district as polling parties could not reach due to an IED blast on way and firing by Naxals.
Encounters between security forces and Maoists were also reported near a few polling booths in Dantewada and Bijapur districts of south Chhattisgarh.
A total of 143 candidates from 12 constituencies were in the fray in Bastar division and six constituencies of Rajnandgaon district, which together account for an electorate of 29,33,200. The second and last phase of Chhattisgarh assembly election is on November 19.
Apart from Raman Singh, who is hoping for a hat-trick this time, three of his ministers — Kedar Kashyap, Lata Usendi and Vikram Usendi — were also in the fray today.
The election marked the start of the battle of ballot in five states, demeed as a semi-final to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Polling in 13 Naxal-affected constituencies of Bastar and Rajnandgaon was held between 7 AM and 3 PM, while in other 5 constituencies of Rajnandgaon, it was held from 8 AM to 5 PM.