Published 20:40 IST, April 23rd 2024

Voting For Maoist-hit Bastar Lok Sabha Seat To Be Held On Friday Amid Tight Security

Amid heightened security measures, the Naxal-affected Bastar Lok Sabha constituency in Chhattisgarh will go to polls in the first phase of general elections on Friday,

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Voting For Maoist-hit Bastar Lok Sabha Seat To Be Held On Friday Amid Tight Security | Image: PTI/ Representative

Raipur: Amid heightened security measures, the Naxal-affected Bastar Lok Sabha constituency in Chhattisgarh will go to polls in the first phase of general elections on Friday, where 11 candidates are in fray.

Maoists' call to boycott elections poses a challenge to security forces, but their morale seems to be high following a major counter-insurgency operation in Kanker district on April 16 in which 29 Naxals, including senior cadres, were gunned down by them. Kanker is part of the Bastar region.


Congress' firebrand leader Kawasi Lakhma will take on BJP's Mahesh Kashyap, a fresh face, in Bastar, which the saffron party has lost in 2019.

"All preparations have been made for conducting a free and fair election in Bastar, the lone Lok Sabha constituency going to polls in the first phase in the state on April 19," state's Chief Electoral Officer Reena Babasaheb Kangale told reporters on Thursday.


Polling in booths of Kondagaon, Narayanpur, Chitrakot, Dantewada, Bijapur and Konta assembly constituencies in the Bastar Lok Sabha seat will be held from 7 am to 3 pm. Besides, in the Bastar assembly constituency, the polling will be held from 7 am to 5 pm. In the Jagdalpur assembly segment, 175 booths will see voting from 7 am to 3 pm and 72 booths from 7 am to 3 pm, she said.

A total of 11 candidates are in the fray in Bastar, where 14,72,207 voters -- 7,71,679 women, 7,00,476 men and 52 members of third gender -- are eligible to exercise their franchise, the official said.


There are 1,603 service voters, 12,703 divyang (differently-abled) voters, 47,010 voters in the age group of 18 to 19 years, 3,487 in the age group of above 85 years of age and 119 voters above 100 years of age, she said.

As many as 1,961 polling booths have been set up in the constituency. Of them, 191 will be 'Sangwari' booths (managed by women personnel), 42 'adarsh' polling booths while 8 others will be managed each by 'diyangjan' and 36 by youths, she said.


Total 9,864 polling personnel have been deployed for the first phase, Kangale added.

"Sufficient security arrangements have been made in all eight assembly constituencies in this Lok Sabha seat to ensure peaceful and fair elections. In the first phase, 61 polling booths have been categorised as 'vulnerable' and 196 as 'critical', she said.


Webcasting will be done in 811 out of the total 1,961 booths, she said.

Seven helicopters, including three of Indian Air Force (IAF) and as many others of Border Security Force (BSF), were used to ferry 919 polling personnel in 156 polling booths of remote and sensitive areas in the last two days. Of these 156 polling booths, 76 are located in Bijapur district, 42 in Sukma, 33 in Narayanpur, 3 in Dantewada and 2 in Kondagaon, she said.

Remaining 1,805 polling teams were dispatched to their destinations through buses on Thursday, she said.

According to officials, around 300 companies of various units of state police and 350 companies of CAPFs, including Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Border Security Force (BSF), (more than 60,000 personnel) have been deployed to guard the constituency on the polling day.

A police official said patrolling on the ground, as well as by drones keeping a hawk eye from above, is in place to track the movement of Naxals, especially in areas close to polling booths and camps of security forces.

The Maoist ultras have, like previous years, given a call for a poll boycott, with posters and pamphlets found in some pockets of the constituency in the past one month.

Congress leader Lakhma is fighting the election from the Bastar Lok Sabha seat against BJP's Kashyap.

The Congress denied ticket to its sitting MP Deepak Baij and fielded Lakhma, an incumbent MLA. The six-term MLA, Lakhma had served as minister in the previous Congress government in the state.

The ruling BJP has pinned its hopes on Kashyap, who had been an active member of Vishwa Hindu Parishad in the past.

Acrimonious exchanges between main rivals BJP and the Congress over issues like corruption, poverty and pre-poll promises made by them dominated the high-decibel campaign for the first phase of Lok Sabha elections in the state.

The saffron party's campaign was spearheaded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who addressed one rally each in the constituency, and Chief Minister Vishnu Deo Sai. In their rallies, BJP leaders targeted the Congress, particularly its previous government in the state headed by Bhupesh Baghel, over corruption and highlighted construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.

Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, who addressed one rally, led the campaign for the opposition outfit along with his colleague Sachin Pilot and state party chief Deepak Baij, and mounted a counter-offensive, claiming their party thinks for the poor, while the BJP-led central government works only for the rich.

The Congress based its campaign on its poll promises, including the Mahalakshmi Yojana, caste census, recruitment to 30 lakh vacant government posts, apprenticeships for youth and abolishing the contractual system in government companies and farm loan waiver.

There are a total of 11 Lok Sabha seats in Chhattisgarh and the elections will be held in three phases.

After the Bastar seat polling on Friday, voting in three seats - Rajanandgaon, Kanker (ST) and Mahasamund will be held in the second phase on April 26.

The remaining seven seats -- Raipur, Durg, Bilaspur, Janjgir-Champa (SC), Korba, Surguja (ST) and Raigarh (ST) -- will vote in the third phase on May 7. 

16:41 IST, April 18th 2024