Chhattisgarh set for elections amid Maoist threats

November 13th, 2008 - 11:52 am ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyRaipur, Nov 13 (IANS) One of India’s youngest states, Chhattisgarh, goes to the polls Friday to elect 39 of the state’s 90 legislators in the first of the two-phase elections.The Election Commission said 6.4 million of the state’s 15.2 million voters were eligible to exercise their franchise in 8,883 polling stations to decide the electoral fortunes of 379 candidates, including 36 women, in the first phase.

This phase will decide the fortunes of Chief Minister Raman Singh (Rajnandgaon ), opposition leader and Congress candidate Mahendra Karma (Dantewada) and house Speaker Premprakash Pandey (Bhilai).

The constituencies of cabinet ministers Ajay Chandrakar (Kurud) and Hemchand Yadav (Durg city), besides Congress leader Motilal Vora’s son Arun Vora and Congress leader Arvind Netam’s daughter Priti Netam, will also see polling Friday.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) are contesting all 39 seats.

The Communist Party of India (CPI) has fielded nine candidates and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) three.

The Bastar region’s 12 constituencies, where Maoist guerrillas dominate, Durg district’s 12 constituencies, six in Rajnandgaon district, four in Mahasamund district, three in Dhamtari district and two in Kabirdham district will also see polling in the first phase.

All eyes are set on the Bastar region that is home to five districts: Kanker, Dantewada, Bijapur, Narayanpur and Bastar. About 65,000 policemen have been deployed in the 12 constituencies to take on Maoist guerrillas who have vowed to disrupt the elections.

Bastar has witnessed over 1,100 casualties in Maoist violence since 2004.

The polling will begin at 7 a.m. and end at 3 p.m. for Bastar’s 12 seats, where security personnel have a task cut out to escort voters and polling parties as well.

The polling timing for the rest of the seats will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“The decision to start polling early in Bastar’s Dantewada, Konta, Bijapur, Keshkal, Kondagaon, Bastar, Jagdalpur, Chitrakot, Narayanpur, Antagarh, Bhanupratappur and Kanker 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 Alok Shukla, the state’s chief election officer.

Bastar Inspector General A.N. Upadhaya told IANS: “Bastar region’s border with Orissa and Andhra Pradesh has been sealed off.”

Authorities have kept ready about a dozen choppers in Bastar to airlift polling parties to polling booths and also bring them back to safer areas before sunset.

The Election Commission has set up auxiliary polling booths at 23 government-run makeshift camps at Bijapur, Konta and Dantewada where about 13,000 voters are living with families after being uprooted by the government-backed civil militia movement, Salwa Judum.

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