Raipur, Nov 12 : Defying Maoist threats, over 70 per cent electorate cast their votes on Monday in 18 Maoist-affected Assembly constituencies of Chhattisgarh in the first phase, marking the start of five-state elections dubbed the ‘semi-final’ before the Lok Sabha battle next year.
The Election Commission said the final figure would be higher as data was still being collated.
“Over 70 per cent voters cast their vote… The final figure may touch the last election’s figure of 75 per cent as data is still being obtained,” Senior Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha told the media here.
The Maoists, who had warned citizens against taking part in the poll process, detonated an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in Katekalyan in Dantewada district, minutes before the voting began, narrowly missing a foot patrol of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
In a later gun battle with the rebels, two CRPF personnel were injured in Pamed in Bijapur district. Security personnel also found IEDs near a polling station in Bijapur and in Sukma district.
The militants have carried out multiple attacks in the last few weeks, killing several people including a BSF officer and a journalist.
The constituencies which went to the polls on Monday were Narayanpur, Dantewada, Bijapur, Konta, Mohla-Manpur, Antagarh, Bhanupratappur, Kanker, Keshkal, Kondagaon, Khairagarh, Dongargarh, Rajnandgaon, Dongargaon, Khujji, Bastar, Jagdalpur and Chitrakot.
The BJP had lost 12 of these 18 seats in 2013.
The prominent faces in the first phase include Chief Minister Raman Singh, pitted against Congress’ Karuna Shukla in his home turf Rajnandgaon.
Shukla, a niece of late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee switched to Congress from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2014.
Polling in 10 constituencies — Narayanpur, Dantewada, Bijapur, Konta, Mohla-Manpur, Antagarh, Bhanupratappur, Kanker, Keshkal and Kondagaon — started at 7 a.m. and ended at 3 p.m.
Voting at Khairagarh, Dongargarh, Rajnandgaon, Dongargaon, Khujji, Bastar, Jagdalpur and Chitrakot started an hour later and ended at 5 p.m.
The Congress has promised farm loan waiver, minimum support price for crops as per the Swaminathan Commission recommendations and special women police stations.
Hoping to retain the state for a fourth straight term, the BJP has promised to give Rs 2 lakh interest-free loans to women to start business; distribute free books and uniforms to students till Class 12; form a journalist welfare board and to build a Film City in the state.
Also contesting is Mayawati’s BSP, which has aligned with the Chhattisgarh Janata Congress of former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi and the Communist Party of India.
Twelve of the 18 seats are reserved for Scheduled Tribes (STs) and one is reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC) category.
The second and final phase of polling in Chhattisgarh will be held on November 20. The vote count will take place on December 11.
In 2013, the Congress won 39 seats garnering 40.3 per cent of the vote share while the BJP won 49 seats with a 41.04 per cent vote share.