Raipur | Voting was underway in 18 Assembly constituencies in the first phase of the Chhattisgarh elections Monday during which an improvised explosive device (IED) was detonated by Naxals in Dantewada district. A police official said Naxals, who had called for a boycott of the polls, detonated the IED early morning, but no casualty was reported.
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. Polling in 10 constituencies — Mohla-Manpur, Antagarh, Bhanupratappur, Kanker, Keshkal, Kondagaon, Narayanpur, Dantewada, Bijapur and Konta — started at 7 am and would conclude at 3 pm, an election official said.
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, he said. An IED blast was triggered by Maoists early morning in Dantewada. “The explosion took place around 5.30 am on Tumakpal-Nayanar road when a team of security men was escorting polling personnel to their booth,” a senior police official said. “No harm was caused to the security and polling personnel in the explosion. The polling party safely reached the Nayanar polling booth in Katekalyan area,” he added.
Among the prominent candidates in the first phase were Chief Minister Raman Singh, ministers Kedar Kashyap (Narayanpur) and Mahesh Gagda (Bijpaur) and Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Kanker Lok Sabha seat 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) — were also in the fray. Of the 18 seats going to polling in the first phase, 12 are reserved for Scheduled Tribes (STs) while one is for Scheduled Caste (SC) category.
The second phase of polling in 72 seats, out of the 90-member Assembly, would be held on November 20 and counting of votes would take place on December 11.