Voting for the first phase of Chhattisgarh Assembly polls concluded on Monday. Voting for ten seats- Narayanpur, Dantewada, Bijapur, Konta, Mohla-Manpur, Antagarh, Bhanupratappur, Kanker, Keshkal and Kondagaon began at 7 am and wrapped up at 3 pm, while polling in Khairagarh, Dongargarh, Rajnandgaon, Dongargaon, Khujji, Bastar, Jagdalpur and Chitrakot, which started an hour later, continued till 5 pm.
The voter turnout in the 10 areas where polling began at 7 am was recorded at 52 per cent, while 70.08 per cent people turned up for voting in the other 8 areas where voting commenced at 8 am. The average voter turnout was recorded at 60.48 per cent.
Giving the break-up, the poll panel said a voter turnout of 61.47 per cent was recorded in Kondagaon, 63.51 per cent in Keshkal, 62 per cent in Kanker, 58 per cent in Bastar, 49 per cent in Dantewada, 70.14 per cent in Khairagarh, 71 per cent in Dongargarh, 71 per cent in Dongargaon and 72 per cent in the Khujji constituency.
Of the 18 seats, 12 were reserved for Scheduled Tribes (STs) and one was for the Scheduled Caste (SC) category.
A total number of 4,341 polling booths were set up during the first phase of polling. A total of 31,90.014- including 15,57,4325 men 16,22,492 women and 87 third gender were eligible for voting in the state.
The people defied Maoist threats and turned up out to vote in large number. However, the turnout has been lower than the first phase in 2013 when 75.53 per cent of voters turned out to exercise their franchise.
Appreciating the enthusiasm of the voters, Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat said attempst were amde to instill a sense of fear among people. “Polling was peaceful. In comparison to earlier elections, this elections have been singular achievement of the people working in the fields. Attempts were made to create fear among people but enthusiasm in voters was appreciable,” ANI quoted Rawat as saying.
The highest voter turnout was recorded in Khujji at 65.5 per cent till 4.30 pm. The Maoist hotbed of Bastar, which saw just 40 per cent voter turnout in 2013, witnessed a healthy participation this time, with 58 per cent of the electorate coming out to vote. Dantewada recorded 58 per cent turnout, while other regions in the Naxal belt like Kondagaon, Keshkal, Kanker, Khairagarh and Dongargarh saw 61.47, 63.51, 62, 60.5, 64 per cent voter participation respectively.
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Minutes before polling began, an improvised explosive device (IED) was detonated in Dantewada district by Naxals, who had called for a boycott of the polls. Security personnel also recovered IEDs near a polling station in Bijapur and in Sukma district.
Moreover, five personnel of Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) were injured and five Naxals were killed in two separate encounters at Bijapur district’s Pamed area. The first encounter took place when a group of Maoists opened fire at a patrolling team of the CoBRA’s 204th battalion, injuring two jawans. The Maoists fled upon retaliation.
When the same patrolling team was cordoning off a forest patch near Majiguda village, Maoists again opened fire at them, injuring assistant commandant Amit Deswal, head constable Sunil and constable Chaitanya.
Later in the day, two Maosists were killed in an encounter in Sukma. The gunfight took place in forests near a village under Pushpal police station limits when a team of the District Reserve Guard (DRG) was returning after discharging election-related duty, Sukma Superintendent of Police Abhishek Meena told PTI.
A group of ultras opened fire on the DRG team near Mudwal village, located 500 km from state capital Raipur, triggering the gun-battle, he said.
After the guns fell silent, the bodies of two Naxals were recovered from the site, Meena said, adding that two firearms were also seized.
Two others Naxals were caught alive from the spot, the police officer said.
Ahead of the elections, the state has registered an increase in the number of Maoist attacks. The rebels have mounted three attacks in the past two weeks, leading to the deaths of eight security personnel and five civilians. On October 30, a Doordarshan cameraman was killed in a Maoist attack in Neelavaya in Dantewada.
A thick security blanket, comprising over 1.25 lakh police and paramilitary personnel, was thrown across the 18 constituencies, which fall in the Naxal belt. Out of the 18 seats, 12 of them fall in the Maoist-infested Bastar region.
Meanwhile, the Congress alleged rampant EVM rigging in the Bastar area even as the Election Commission rejected the charges. “BJP has completely lost the plot in Chhattisgarh and its desperation and desolation are more than evident with reports of rigging of EVMs pouring in from Bastar,” IANS quoted Congress Legislative Party leader TS Singh Deo as saying.
The second phase of polling in 72 seats will be held on November 20 and the results will be announced on December 11.
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