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Chhattisgarh polls: Provisional voter turnout of 71 per cent in first phase amid Naxal violence

Incidents of violence were reported from Sukma, Narayanpur, Bijapur and Kanker districts.

RAIPUR: A provisional turnout of around 71 per cent was recorded in the first phase of Chhattisgarh assembly elections for 20 constituencies on Tuesday, voting for which was held in separate time slots, amid Naxalite violence and the call for boycott, officials said.

Voting for 10 constituencies was held from 7 am to 3 pm in 10 seats and from 8 am to 5 pm in the rest 10 segments under a thick security blanket of police and paramilitary personnel in the Naxalite-hit Bastar division.

Notably, nearly 1 lakh security personnel have been deployed for the first phase of polls.

A 70.87 per cent voter turnout was recorded till 5 pm in the first phase of the Chhattisgarh elections on Tuesday. However, this figure may go up as the final data from several booths was yet to be received,” a poll official said.

Of the 20 seats for which polling was held on Tuesday, 12 are reserved for Scheduled Tribes.

A total of 223 candidates, including 25 women, were in the fray and as per electoral rolls, 40,78,681 voters were eligible to exercise their franchise in the first phase.

Out of the total 20 constituencies that voted on Tuesday, 17 were won by the Congress and two by the BJP in the 2018 assembly polls.

Last time, the Congress had won 68 out of the total 90 seats in the state decimating the saffron party, which was in power that time, to 15.

In the previous assembly polls, a voter turnout of 76.47 per cent was recorded on 18 seats in the first phase.

This time, two more constituencies were included in the first phase.

On Tuesday, the political fate of former chief minister and BJP leader Raman Singh, Chhattisgarh Congress chief and MP Deepak Baij, and at least three ministers in the Bhupesh Baghel cabinet was sealed in EVMs.

Incidents of violence were reported from Sukma, Narayanpur, Bijapur and Kanker districts.

Four security personnel were injured in an encounter with Naxalites in the Chintagufa police station area of Sukma district while a CRPF commando sustained injuries in an IED blast near Tondamarka camp in the same district during separate area domination operations to ensure security during the polls, police said.

Exchanges of fire also took place between Naxalites and security personnel –one each in Narayanpur, Bijapur and Kanker districts.

However, no harm was reported to security personnel in those incidents, police said.

Deepak Baij (Chitrakot seat), state ministers Kawasi Lakhma, Mohan Markam, and Mohammad Akbar, were among the prominent candidates in the fray.

Lakhma (Konta) and Markam (Kondagaon), Congress MLAs Chandan Kashyap (Narayanpur) and Savitri Mandavi (Bhanupratappur) cast their vote from their respective seats.

BJP candidates and former ministers Kedar Kashyap (Narayanpur), Mahesh Gagda (Bijapur), Vikram Usendi (Antagarh) and Lata Usendi (Kondagaon) also exercised their franchise.

Raman Singh is pitted against Congress leader and Chhattisgarh State Mineral Development Corporation chairman Girish Dewangan in Rajnandgaon.

Singh voted in his home town Kawardha.

Residents of 126 villages in the Bastar division rejoiced as polling stations were set up for the first time in their villages since Independence in seven Left Wing Extremist (LWE) affected districts, a statement issued by the poll authority said.

Former Naxalite Sumitra Sahu, who joined the police force in 2018, voted for the first time.

She voted in the Narayanpur constituency.

The 34-year-old police constable told PTI that she was active as a commander in the Aamdai Area Committee of Maoists in Narayanpur before quitting the outlawed outfit in December 2018.

“I joined the police force in January 2019. I am happy that for the first time, I have exercised my franchise,” she added.

Family members of BJP leader Ratan Dubey, who was killed by Naxalites while campaigning for the party last week in Narayanpur district, also cast their votes.

The polling for the remaining 70 assembly segments will be held in the second phase on November 17 and votes will be counted on December 3.

The Congress, which is seeking another term and the opposition BJP, which had ruled the state for 15 years before it was voted out by a huge margin in 2018 polls, are the main contenders for power.

Women voters outnumber men in the seats covered under the first phase of polling.

As many as 20,84,675 female voters are on the rolls while the number of male voters is 19,93,937.

There are 69 third gender voters as well.

As many as 5,304 election booths were set up for the first phase and 25,249 polling personnel have been deployed.

Polling in 10 constituencies — Mohla-Manpur (Durg division), Antagarh, Bhanupratappur, Kanker, Keshkal, Kondagaon, Narayanpur, Dantewada, Bijapur and Konta (all in Bastar division) – began at 7 am and continued till 3 pm in view of the Naxal threat.

The remaining 10 constituencies — Khairagarh, Dongargarh, Rajnandgaon, Dongargaon, Khujji, Bastar, Jagdalpur, Chitrakot, Pandariya and Kawardha — voted between 8 am and 5 pm.

Around 60,000 security personnel, 40,000 of them belonging to the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) and 20,000 from the state police, have been deployed for the smooth conduct of polls in the Bastar division which has 12 assembly segments, police said.

Of the 20 seats for which polling was held on Tuesday, 12 are reserved for Scheduled Tribes and one for the Scheduled Caste candidates.

The highest number of contestants is in Rajnandgaon (29) and the lowest — seven each — in Chitrakot and Dantewada seats, polls officials said.


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