Bastar voting hours changed, 383 in fray for Chhattisgarh first phase polls (Lead)

November 1st, 2008 - 8:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Raipur, Nov 1 (IANS) Voting will start early in Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Bastar region as the Election Commission is concerned about the safety of the polling teams, an official said Saturday. A total of 383 candidates are left in the fray for 39 seats going to polls in the first phase of assembly elections, Nov 14. Polling will begin at 7 a.m. and will conclude at 3 p.m. for the 12 assembly segments in Bastar region, the state’s chief election officer Alok Shukla told IANS.

“The decision to start polling early in Bastar is taken in view of insurgency problems, to ensure the polling teams sent in the interior regions return (to district headquarters) the same day safely,” said Shukla.

He said the poll timing for the seats outside the Bastar region will remain unchanged - 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The changed timing will be effective for these seats: Dantewada, Konta, Bijapur, Keshkal, Kondagaon, Bastar, Jagdalpur, Chitrakot, Narayanpur, Antagarh, Bhanupratappur and Kanker.

Officials say the polling officials would be airlifted for the election duty at dozens of hyper-sensitive booths in the thickly forested Bastar interiors - that has witnessed about 1,100 killings since 2004 - and they need extra time after the polling ends to move away from the rebel-dominated areas before the sunset.

The first phase poll will decide the fate of Chief Minister Raman Singh (Rajnandgaon seat), Leader of Opposition Mahendra Karma of the Congress (Dantewada), assembly speaker Premprakash Pandey (Bhilai) and senior minister Hemchand Yadav (Durg city).

A total of 61 candidates withdrew their names Friday, the last date for withdrawal of candidature for the first phase.

A maximum number of candidates, 20, are contesting on the Vaishali Nagar seat while the minimum number of candidates, four, are contesting from the Maoist-hit Konta, close to the state border with Andhra Pradesh.

Out of the 90 constituencies, 39 will go to the polls Nov 14 while voting in the remaining seats will take place Nov 20.

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