Bastar/Raipur: Except one IED blast and four encounters, Bastar division witnessed peaceful polling in the first phase of assembly elections on Tuesday in Chhattisgarh. The recorded voter turnout was 70.87 per cent till 5 pm in 20 constituencies during the first phase of the polls, the election commission data showed.
Khairagarh-Chhuikhadan-Gandai district witnessed the highest voter turnout of 76.31 per cent, while Naxal-hit Bijapur district recorded the lowest turnout of 40.98 per cent till 5 pm.
Around three jawans were reported to have suffered injuries in Minpa area which falls between Tadmetla and Duled, of Sukma district of Bastar division. Security forces were reported engaged in gun fight with armed guerrillas of the banned outfit CPI Maoists.
Intense firing between naxals and jawans
The intense firing between security forces and armed Naxals were informed and continued for 20 minutes. In the dreadful encounter, some jawans suffered injuries but the Election Commission and police administration did not issue official figures till the report was filed. Meanwhile, one CRPF jawan was reported injured in an IED blast in Todamarka area of Sukma. The jawan was sent for medical treatment, one CRPF officer said.
Naxals also fired outside of the polling booth of Banda polling station of Konta assembly constituency of Sukma district.
In the forest area of Madpakanjur and Ulia, a joint team of BSF and Bastar fighters confronted the Naxals, after a brief exchange of fire from both sides, the Naxals escaped deep into the jungle. However, during a search combing operation police recovered one AK-47 from the site of the encounter.
Congress candidates get death threats
In another incident which came to light in Kanker district, police recovered two banners in which the Naxals have threatened dire consequences to Congress candidates Rupsingh Potai and Manturam Pawar, an independent candidate who were threatened to be punished in Janadalat (Kangaroo court).
In Bijapur on Gangalur road, security forces confronted naxals and brief exchange of fire was reported. In Narayanpur STF team confronted armed naxals in the jungles of Orcha and Tadur. However, on these incidents, the police administration has not issued any official version yet.
Cong, BJP candidates cast votes
State Congress chief and Bastar MP Deepak Baij (Chitrakot seat), Kawasi Lakhma (Konta) and Mohan Markam (Kondagaon), sitting Congress MLAs Chandan Kashyap (Narayanpur) and Savitri Mandavi (Bhanupratappur), all Congress candidates from their respective seats cast votes.
BJP candidates and former ministers Kedar Kashyap (Narayanpur), Mahesh Gagda (Bijapur), Vikram Usendi (Antagarh) and Lata Usendi (Kondagaon) also exercised their franchise.
BJP leader and former chief minister Raman Singh is contesting from Rajnandgaon against Congress' Girish Dewangan, chairman of the Chhattisgarh State Mineral Development Corporation.
Woman constable Sumitra Sahu, who joined the police force after quitting Naxalism in 2018, voted in Narayanpur constituency.
The 34-year-old constable told PTI that she was active as commander in Aamdai area committee of Maoists in Narayanpur and quit 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.
First phase of Chhattisgarh polls
In the first phase covering 20 out of the total 90 assembly seats in the state, 223 candidates, including 25 women, are in the fray and as per electoral rolls, 40,78,681 people are eligible to exercise their franchise.
The ruling Congress and the opposition BJP are the main contenders for power in the state.
Women voters outnumber men in 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 have been 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 will continue till 3 pm in view of the Naxal threat.
In the remaining 10 constituencies -- Khairagarh, Dongargarh, Rajnandgaon, Dongargaon, Khujji, Bastar, Jagdalpur, Chitrakot, Pandariya and Kawardha -- polling began at 8 am and will continue till 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.
Nearly 1 lakh security personnel have been deployed for the first phase of polls, they said.
Due to security reasons, 149 polling stations in five assembly constituencies of the Bastar division have been shifted to the nearest police station and security camps, they said.
Naxal activities are being monitored through drones and helicopters, while bomb disposal teams and dog squads will be roped in as and when required, according to the police.
Of the 20 seats, 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.
The remaining 70 seats will see voting on November 17 in the second and last phase of polling for the 90-member state assembly.
(With inputs from PTI)