Raipur: Twenty-eight per cent of the electorate exercised their franchise till 11 AM during the first phase of Chhattisgarh Assembly polls in 18 constituencies of Naxal-hit Bastar region and Rajnandgaon
district today.

Voting failed to kick start in two hyper sensitive polling booths – Durgapur and Sitaram – of Kanker. While no voting could take place in Durgapur as Naxals looted EVM machines from polling parties, parties failed to reach the venue owing to Naxal resistance in Sitaram.

No fresh violence has been reported so far in the region except a policeman sustaining injuries in morning during a pressure bomb blast in Kanker district.

“Polling in 12 constituencies of Bastar and one in Rajnandgaon district began from 7 AM while in the rest of the seats in Rajnandgaon, it started at 8 AM. So far, around 28 per cent polling has been registered,” Joint Electoral Officer DD Singh told PTI.

Meanwhile, a presiding officer – Rajendra Mahapatra at Balinga polling booth of Kondagaon district died of heart stroke this morning, an official here said.

However, an official has been deputed there, he added.

Encounters between security forces and Maoists were also reported near few polling booths in Naxal-hit Dantewada district and Bijapur of southern Chhattisgarh.

But polling is so far going on smoothly in that region, he added.

A total of 143 candidates from 12 constituencies are in the fray in Bastar division and six constituencies of Rajnandgaon district with an electorate of 29,33,200 in the first of the two-phase polls to the 90-member Assembly in the state where Chief Minister Raman Singh is aiming for a hat-trick.

Maximum number of candidates have been fielded in two constituencies – Rajnandgaon and Jagdalpur (14 each) and least number of candidates are in Konta (4).

The fate of Raman Singh and his three ministers Kedar Kashyap, Lata Usendi and Vikram Usendi  besides kin of the victims of Jiram valley Naxal attack will be sealed today.

A total of 4,142 polling booths have been set up for this phase of which 1,517 are sensitive booths while 1,311 are hyper-sensitive stations.

Out of the 18 seats, BJP had won 15 while Congress had three in the last election.

The rest 72 constituencies, including Bilaspur and state-capital Raipur, are scheduled for polls on November 19.

A large number of security personnel have been deployed across the state to ensure peaceful polling.

A total of 562 companies (56,200 personnel) have been recently sent by the Centre for stepping up security in addition to existing 40 battalions (40,000 men and women) of paramilitary forces engaged in anti-Naxal operations and other security related duty in the state.

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