Chhattisgarh assembly election: Polling is underway in 18 seats in Maoist-hit areas
Raipur: Election in Chhattisgarh: Polling has ended in 18 seats in Chhattisgarh's Maoist-hit areas. The remaining 72 constituencies will vote on November 20. The BJP government led by Chief Minister Raman Singh is looking to hold on to power for a fourth term. The Congress campaign is trying to swing votes by promising to keep farmers happy and not letting unchecked development bulldoze the interest of fragile communities in the Maoist-hit state. Former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi's new party is also in fray, in alliance with Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party. The Congress, which failed to seal a deal with Mayawati, fears the combination will dent its chances. "I have been told that people in large numbers are voting in the (Maoist-hit) Bastar region," PM Modi said at a rally in Bilaspur for the second phase.
Here's your 10-point cheat-sheet on the Chhattisgarh election:
- A voter turnout of 70 per cent was recorded across the 18 seats, the Election Commission said, adding that the figure could go up. Polling was held under a high threat of attacks by Maoists, who have planted booby traps in the jungles, according to intelligence sources.
- The Maoists triggered an explosion near a polling station in Dantewada just as voting started at 7 am. No one was injured. An improvised explosive device or IED was found near another polling booth in Sukma, after which the election officials moved to a makeshift voting counter under a tree.
- Three IEDs were also recovered near a polling booth in Konta. A bomb squad of the Central Reserve Police Force is working to defuse the bombs. A steady stream of people continued to trickle into the booths, despite Maoist posters warning them to boycott the elections.
- Of the 18 seats in which voting is being held today, eight are held by the Congress and the rest by the BJP. The last phase of the campaign had witnessed bitter political sparring, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath accusing the Congress of being responsible for the rise of Maoists in the state and supporting "urban Naxals".
- On Sunday, Maoists triggered seven explosions and took on security forces in Kanker district, 175 km from state capital Raipur, in which a BSF man was killed. Over the last two weeks, there have been seven attacks on security personnel and visiting media personnel.
- "The main threat is to politicians and public representatives such as panchayat heads," a police officer told NDTV. Intelligence sources said the Maoists could try to attack helicopters while preparing to land. "The security forces will sanitise a perimeter of 900 metres from a landing pad to ensure there is no such threat," the officer said.
- The 66-year-old three-time Chief Minister, Raman Singh, is contesting from Rajnandgaon constituency. His challenger is BJP-turned-Congress leader Karuna Shukla, a niece of late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Ms Shukla had been a member of the BJP for three decades. She left the party in 2013, accusing it of mental torture.
- The Ajit Jogi-led Janta Congress Chhattisgarh party, which is expected to dent the Congress voter base, especially in terms of caste, has been wooing tribals by offering farm loans waivers and jobs for local youths. "We will win maximum seats from Bastar, the people there have lost faith in both the BJP and the Congress," said party spokesman Nitin Bhansali.
- Mr Jogi, whose government was swept out by the Raman Singh-led BJP in 2003, has released his party's manifesto on stamp paper as a mark of his commitment. "If I don't fulfil promises made in it, I can be sent to jail," he had said, challenging the BJP and the Congress to do the same.
- The second phase of the Chhattisgarh election will be held on November 20 and the votes will be counted on December 11. The results of four other states where assembly elections are being held - Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Rajasthan - will be declared the same day.
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