Chhatisgarh clocks 70% turnout in phase I

Defying Maoist threats, over 70 per cent voted in 18 Naxal-hit Assembly constituencies of Chhattisgarh in the first phase on Monday, marking the start of five-state elections dubbed the ‘semi-final’ before the 2019 Lok Sabha battle.

The Election Commission said the final figure would be higher as data was still being collated.

The Maoists, who had warned citizens against taking part in the poll process, detonated an IED in Katekalyan in Dantewada district, minutes before voting began, narrowly missing a foot patrol of the 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 constituencies which went to polls 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.

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.

The Congress has promised farm loan waiver, minimum support price for crops as per the Swaminathan Commission recommendations and special women police stations.

The second and final phase of polling will be held on November 20.

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