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Voters defy Maoists as Bastar LS seat records 57% turnout

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: April 12, 2019  | 00:13 IST

(Eds: Adds details, quotes) Raipur, Apr 11 (PTI) Defying Maoists' call to boycott elections, voters Thursday came out in large numbers to exercise their franchise in Bastar Lok Sabha constituency of Chhattisgarh, where an estimated 57 per cent turnout was recorded. The polling day saw an encounter between Naxals and security forces and an IED (improvised explosive device) blast in Narayanpur district, a part of the Lok Sabha constituency, but voting remained unaffected. Naxal-hit Bastar was the only Lok Sabha constituency that voted in the first phase in Chhattisgarh, which has 11 seats. Nearly 80,000 state and paramilitary personnel were deployed across the constituency. Election officials said the voting figure may go up as several polling parties, which manned booths in interior areas, will return only Friday, after which the final turnout will be calculated. The fate of seven candidates, including Dipak Baij (Congress) and Baiduram Kashyap (BJP) -- the two main contenders -- were locked in EVMs. "The polling was relatively incident-free in the Bastar Lok Sabha constituency. No untoward incident was reported during voting," Chief Electoral Officer Subrat Sahoo told reporters in the evening. For the first time, drones were used in large number to monitor security around polling stations in Naxal-affected areas, he added. Around 57 per cent voter turnout was recorded till 5 pm and the figure may go up, Sahoo said. In 2014 the Lok Sabha elections, the Scheduled Tribe (ST)-reserved seat, which consists of eight Assembly segments, had recorded a turnout of 59.32 per cent, he added. Voting was held from 7 am to 3 pm in four Assembly segments -- Dantewada, Konta, Bijapur and Narayanpur and between 7 am and 5 pm in the remaining segments -- Bastar, Chitrakot, Kondagaon and Jagdalpur. The highest voter turnout of 70.73 per cent was recorded in the Bastar assembly segment, while the lowest, 28.34 per cent, was in the Konta assembly seat, he said. During the polling, a total of 33 VVPAT machines were replaced, the CEO said. Voter Verifiable Paper Trail (VVPT) is an independent printer system attached with EVMs that allows the voters to verify that their ballots are cast as intended. The wife and relatives of BJP MLA Bheema Mandavi, who was killed in a Naxal attack near Shyamgiri village in Dantewada Tuesday, also exercised their franchise. Around 77 per cent voter turnout was recorded in the polling booth set at Shyamgiri village, he said. Voters of Harimarka village in the Abhujmad region of Naraynpur district voted for the first time since independence, he said. They exercised their franchise in the polling booth set up in nearby Kundla village, he said. Of the 1,879 polling booths in the constituency, 741 were marked as hyper-sensitive and 606 as sensitive in view of threat from Maoists, who had given a poll boycott call. Helicopters were used to ferry 165 teams to their resptivce polling booths in the constituency which has 13,77,946 voters. In the Orchha area of Narayanpur district, an encounter took place between security forces and ultras in the adjacent forest area at around 4:20 pm when polling parties were being evacuated by helicopters, police officials said. One Naxal was killed and a Special Task Force (STF) jawan was injured in the gunfight, they said. "Polling teams were safely airlifted from Orchha," Sahoo said. Early in the morning, Naxals detonated an IED in Narayanpur district, around 300km from state capital Raipur, but no casualty was reported, the officials said. In Bijapur district, four Naxals were arrested and three firearms recovered from them by security forces in the Bedre police station area in the morning, they said. Polling for the 11 Lok Sabha seats of Chhattisgarh is being held in three phases. In the second phase (April 18), three constituencies - Rajnandgaon, Kanker (ST) and Mahasamund will witness polling, while the third phase (April 23) will cover the remaining seven seats - Raipur, Durg, Rajnandgaon, Korba, Raigarh (ST), Jangir-Champa (SC)and Surguja (ST). The BJP has been winning the Bastar Lok Sabha seat since 1998. PTI TKP GK KRK VT RSY ABH ABH

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