Raipur: Nearly 10 per cent voter turnout was recorded till 9.30 am in 20 constituencies during the first phase of Chhattisgarh assembly elections on Tuesday, a poll official said.
Polling began at 7 am in 10 of the 20 assembly constituencies where elections are being held in the first phase. It will end at 3 pm.
Voting in the remaining 10 seats started at 8 am and will end at 5 pm.
“Till 9.30 am, around 10 per cent turnout was recorded in the 20 constituencies,” the official said.
Polling was being held under a thick security blanket of police and paramilitary personnel, who kept a tight vigil in the seats in Naxalite-hit Bastar division.
A CRPF commando was injured on Tuesday in an IED blast triggered by Naxalites in Sukma district while his unit was undertaking an area domination operation to ensure security during the polls.
Among the early voters were two state ministers Kawasi Lakhma (Konta seat) and Mohan Markam (Kondagaon), sitting Congress MLAs Chandan Kashyap (Narayanpur) and Savitri Mandavi (Bhanupratappur), all Congress candidates from their respective seats.
BJP candidates and former ministers Kedar Kashyap (Narayanpur) and Lata Usendi (Kondagaon) were also among the early voters.
Woman constable Sumitra Sahu, who joined the police force after quitting Naxalism in 2018, also cast her vote in Narayanpur constituency.
The 34-year-old constable told PTI that she was active as commander in Aamdai area committee of Maoists in Narayanpur and quit the outlawed outfit in December 2018.
“I joined the police force in January 2019. I am happy that for the first time I have exercised my franchise,” she added.
Family members of BJP leader Ratan Dubey, who was killed by Naxalites while campaigning for the party last week in Narayanpur district, also cast their votes.
In the first phase covering 20 out of the total 90 assembly seats in the state, 223 candidates, including 25 women, are in the fray and as per electoral rolls, 40,78,681 voters are eligible to exercise their franchise.
The ruling Congress and the opposition BJP are the main contenders for power in the state.
Women voters outnumber men in seats covered under the first phase of polling. As many as 20,84,675 female voters are on the rolls while the number of male voters is 19,93,937. There are 69 third gender voters as well.
As many as 5,304 election booths have been set up for the first phase and 25,249 polling personnel have been deployed.
Polling in 10 constituencies -- Mohla-Manpur (Durg division), Antagarh, Bhanupratappur, Kanker, Keshkal, Kondagaon, Narayanpur, Dantewada, Bijapur and Konta (all in Bastar division) - began at 7 am and will continue till 3 pm in view of the Naxal threat.
In the remaining 10 constituencies -- Khairagarh, Dongargarh, Rajnandgaon, Dongargaon, Khujji, Bastar, Jagdalpur, Chitrakot, Pandariya and Kawardha -- polling began at 8 am and will continue till 5 pm.
Around 60,000 security personnel, 40,000 of them belonging to the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) and 20,000 from the state police, have been deployed for the smooth conduct of polls in the Bastar division which has 12 assembly segments, police said.
Nearly 1 lakh security personnel have been deployed for the first phase of polls, they said.
Due to security reasons, 149 polling stations in five assembly constituencies of the Bastar division have been shifted to the nearest police station and security camps, they said.
Naxal activities are being monitored through drones and helicopters, while bomb disposal teams and dog squads will be roped in as and when required, according to the police.
Of the 20 seats, 12 are reserved for Scheduled Tribes and one for the Scheduled Caste candidates. The highest number of contestants is in Rajnandgaon (29) and the lowest -- seven each -- in Chitrakot and Dantewada seats, polls officials said.
The remaining 70 seats will see voting on November 17 in the second and last phase of polling for the 90-member state assembly.