Chhattisgarh Assembly Election 2018 LIVE: EVM Snag at Pink Polling Booth in CM's Rajnandgaon Constituency
In the first phase, 190 candidates are in the fray and as per electoral rolls, there are 31,80,014 voters. Women voters outnumber men for the first phase of polling, with 16,22,492 female voters on the rolls against 15,57,435 men. There are 87 third gender voters as well.
Nearly one lakh security personnel have been deployed in the Naxal-affected districts amid the threat from Maoists who have called for a boycott of the elections. Naxal outfits have given calls for boycott of the election and executed over half-a-dozen attacks in the last 15 days, three of them major ones which left 13 people dead including a cameraman of national broadcaster Doordarshan who was covering the election campaign.
Security men have been asked to avoid patrolling on foot as Naxals are known to place iron spikes to inflict injuries. They have also been asked to maintain extra caution and sanitise polling booths and other premises in sensitive areas.
As many as 4,336 polling booths have been set up for the first phase and 19,079 polling personnel have been deployed. According to police, escorting polling parties to their destinations and bringing them back after the polls pose challenges to them in the Naxal hotbed.
"Around one lakh security personnel, including central paramilitary force, have been deployed to ensure peaceful polling in the first phase," Chhattisgarh's Special Director General (anti-Naxal operations) D M Awasthi said.
All counter measures have been taken to thwart attempts by Maoists to disrupt the poll process, he said. A total of 650 companies (roughly around 65,000 security personnel), including of paramilitary forces like the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Border Security Force (BSF), the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and other state forces, have been sent by the Centre for poll duty, he said.
These units are apart from the paramilitary personnel and 200 companies of state forces already engaged in the anti- Maoist operations in Chhattisgarh, Awasthi said. He said around 650 polling booth parties were airlifted by helicopters to remote areas while other teams were sent by road on Sunday. Choppers of the Indian Air Force and the BSF were pressed into service for the purpose, he said.
"The challenge is to escort all polling parties safely to their destination in Naxal-affected areas and later to conduct polls and bring back them safely," Awasthi said. He said there are inputs of Naxals planning to plant IEDs to target security men. "Therefore, a hawk eye was being kept on roads in such areas," the official said.
In the first phase, the prestige of 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) is at stake. Of the 18 seats going to polling in the first phase, 12 are reserved for Scheduled Tribe (ST) while one is for Scheduled Caste (SC) category. The second phase of polls will see voting in 72 seats on November 20.