New Delhi: The first of the state elections was flagged off on Monday, with the first phase of Chhattisgarh polls being carried out amid watertight security. On Monday, 18 seats across Rajnandgaon, Kanker, Kondagaon, Narayanpur, Jagdalpur, Bastar, Sukma, Dantewada and Bijapur went to polls, even as Naxals carried out an improvised explosive device (IED) blast in Dantewada’s Katekalyan region, at 6:20am, minutes ahead of the polls.
Chhattisgarh voting begins amid tight security in Naxal belt
Voting was flagged off at 7am in the sensitive Naxal-hit areas of Narayanpur, Dantewada, Bijapur, Konta, Mohla-Manpur, Antagarh, Bhanupratappur, Kanker, Keshkal and Kondagaon, and will be wrapped up by 3pm. At the same time, voting began at 8am in Khairagarh, Dongargarh, Rajnandgaon, Dongargaon and Khujji constituencies in Rajnandgaon district and Bastar, Jagdalpur and Chitrakot in Bastar district.
At 9am, Rajnandgaon saw the highest voter turnout at 18%, while Keshkal and Dantewada stood at 14% and 11% respectively. Naxal-affected Bijapur saw the lowest voter turnout at 2.41%.
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) said that in Konta in Sukma district, bomb disposal squads had been working on diffusing freshly planted IEDs by the Naxals, while a makeshift polling booth had been set up elsewhere.
With incumbent chief minister chief minister Raman Singh, contesting in the first phase from Rajnandgaon, nine sitting Congress party members of legislative parties (MLA) are also in the fray from Bastar.
According to the state election commission data, in the first phase across the 18 seats, 190 candidates are in the running, with Bastar and Rajnandgaon regions registering 31.8 lakh voters. Across 4,300 polling booths that have been set up for the first phase, the state has registered 16.2 lakh women and 15.5 lakh male voters.
Senior state police officials told Mint that not only had security been heightened across the state, but electoral officials were also being kept under a tight security blanket to avoid any untoward episodes.
“Drones have been deployed in several areas to check movements. We have deployed 650 companies of paramilitary personnel, electoral officials have been airlifted to very sensitive spots and all routes are being combed to check for any traps being laid by Maoists,” superintendent of police (Dantewada) Abhishek Pallav,