Nearly 38 per cent electorate cast their votes till 2 pm in 18 Assembly constituencies in the first phase of Chhattisgarh elections Monday, a poll official said.
Voting in nine seats of Bastar division and one seat in Rajnandgaon district began at 7 am and will conclude at 3 pm, while in the other eight seats, it started at 8 am and will culminate at 5 pm.
“Around 37.61 per cent polling has been registered till 2 pm,” the official said.
He said polling was being held after 15 years in Sukma district’s Palam Adgu village where 44 voters exercised their franchise so far.
As many as 31 electronic voting machines (EVMs) and 51 voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines were replaced due to technical snags, the official said.
A thick security blanket comprising over 1.25 lakh police and paramilitary personnel was thrown across the 18 constituencies as they fall under the Naxal-hit areas of Bastar, Kanker, Sukma, Bijapur, Dantewada, Narayanpur, Kondagaon and Rajnandgaon districts.
Sukma’s Superintendent of Police Abhishek Meena said people from interior areas in the district were coming out to vote, defying the Naxals’ call for election boycott.
In Bhejji 2, Gorkha and Mukram polling booths, where zero voting was recorded in the 2013 polls, a good number of electorate came out to vote this time, he said.
Polling in 10 constituencies — Mohla-Manpur, Antagarh, Bhanupratappur, Kanker, Keshkal, Kondagaon, Narayanpur, Dantewada, Bijapur and Konta — began at 7 am and would conclude at 3 pm, amid threat by Naxals.
In the other eight constituencies — Khairgarh, Dongargarh, Rajnandgaon, Dongargaon, Khujji, Bastar, Jagdalpur and Chitrakot — voting began at 8 am and would end at 5 pm.
In the first phase of the state polls, 190 candidates are in the fray and as many as 4,336 polling booths have been set up where 19,079 polling personnel are deployed.
Among the prominent candidates are Chief Minister Raman Singh, state ministers Kedar Kashyap (Narayanpur) and Mahesh Gagda (Bijapur), and BJP Kanker Lok Sabha MP Vikram Usendi (Antagarh).
Nine sitting Congress MLAs — Manoj Singh Mandavi (Bhanupratappur), Mohan Lal Markam (Kondagaon), Lakheshwar Baghel (Bastar), Deepak Kumar Baij (Chitrakot), Devati Karma (Dantewada), Kawasi Lakhma (Konta), Girwar Janghel (Khairagarh), Santram Netam (Keshkal) and Daleshwar Sahu (Dongargaon) — are also in the fray.
This time, the coalition between Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), former chief minister Ajit Jogi’s JCC(J) and the Communist Party of India (CPI) had added another dimension to the electoral politics of Chhattisgarh.
Of the 18 seats where polling is being held, 12 are reserved for Scheduled Tribes (STs) and one for Scheduled Caste (SC) category.
The second phase of polling in 72 seats, out of the 90-member Assembly, will be held on November 20.
Counting of votes will take place on December 11.