The voting for the by-polls of the Naxal-affected Bastar's Dantewada Assembly constituency in Chhattisgarh began on Monday amid tight security. The polling began at 7 am in the morning and it will be going on till 3 pm in the afternoon, an election official stated. The by-poll was necessitated due to the death of BJP MLA Bhima Mandavi in a Naxal attack in April. The counting of votes will be taken up on September 27.
The total number of voters eligible to cast their votes is about 1,88,263 voters, including 89,747 men and 98,876 women. The Dantewada constituency consists of 273 polling stations. Around 18,000 security personnel, including those from paramilitary forces, will ensure the safe conduct of the assembly by-poll in the region. In addition to the massive security blanket there are drones assigned around the Dantewada Assembly segment, which is a part of the insurgency-hit Bastar region, for conducting peaceful polling, a senior police official said.
The Dantewada region was one of the Bastar division that was managed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after their win in the last year's Assembly election. Currently, nine candidates are in the run for the seat. The BJP along with the ruling Congress has fielded candidates who have been victims of Naxal violence.
Congress's candidate Devti Karma, wife of senior party leader Mahendra Karma who was killed in the Jhiram Valley attack in 2013 is up against Ojaswi Mandavi, wife of late BJP MLA Bhima Mandavi. Stakes are high for the main opposition BJP as it is fighting to retain the seat. The other candidates are Hemant Poyam from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Sujit Karma from the Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J), Bhimsen Mandavi from Communist Party of India (CPI), Ajay Nag from Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Ballu Ram Bhawani representing Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Yogesh Markam from Gondwana Gantantra Party and Independent candidate Sudru Ram Kunjam.
In the 2018 Assembly polls, Devti Karma had lost to Bhima Mandavi by a thin margin of 2,172 votes in the Dantewada seat. In the 90-member House, the Congress had bagged 68 seats while the BJP 15. The Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) won five and two seats, respectively. Mandavi and four policemen were killed on April 9 when Naxals blew up their vehicle in a powerful IED blast near Shyamgiri village of Dantewada district. Dantewada was the only assembly constituency won by the BJP in the 2018 elections in the Bastar division, which consists of 12 Assembly segments.
Earlier, the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora, has announced the election dates for Maharashtra and Haryana in October, at a press conference. The CEC has informed that both states will simultaneously occur in a single phase on 21 October 2019. Maharashtra which has 288 Assembly seats will go to polls on October 21. Currently, the BJP holds 122 seats, while the Shiv Sena holds 63 seats. The Opposition held by UPA has 42 seats. Whereas Haryana is set to go to polls on October 21. The current Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government holds a single-party majority of 47 seats in the 90 seat Legislative Assembly. The opposition comprising of Congress, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and independent members hold 27 seats. The current Assembly will expire on November 2 2019.
(With PTI inputs)