Chhattisgarh goes to polls today under shadow of Naxal violence

Chhattisgarh goes to polls today under shadow of Naxal violence
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First Published: Wed, Mar 18 2009. 05 06 AM IST

Star power: All India Congress Committee general secretary Rahul Gandhi campaigning in Dhamtari on Wednesday. In the previous assembly election, the Ajit Jogi-led Congress government was voted out of
Star power: All India Congress Committee general secretary Rahul Gandhi campaigning in Dhamtari on Wednesday. In the previous assembly election, the Ajit Jogi-led Congress government was voted out of
Updated: Wed, Mar 18 2009. 04 18 PM IST
Raipur: Fearing disruption by Maoists, Chhattisgarh has stepped up security in the 39 constituencies which go to polls on Friday, including those contested by chief minister Raman Singh and opposition leader Mahendra Karma.
Elections for the remaining 51 seats of the state assembly will be held on 20 November.
Star power: All India Congress Committee general secretary Rahul Gandhi campaigning in Dhamtari on Wednesday. In the previous assembly election, the Ajit Jogi-led Congress government was voted out of power. PTI
“The deployment this year is much bigger than last time (during the 2003 state polls and 2004 Parliament elections). There are over 300 companies of paramilitary and armed state forces deployed for elections. It was less than 200 last time,” said an official who declined being named.
Twelve of the 39 constituencies are in the Bastar region where the Maoists are particularly active. Unlike in other constituencies, polling in these will begin at 7am and end at 3pm to enable poll officials to complete the process before sunset. In the other constituencies, polling will begin at 8am and end at 5pm.
The Bastar region has seen at least 1,100 deaths since 2004 in violence attributed to Maoists.
The state’s director general of police Vishwa Ranjan said the security arrangement is “good deployment (of forces)”.
“We cannot say we have covered the entire region. We are trying to ensure that it is a free and fair election,” Ranjan told Mint.
Some 6.4 million of Chhattisgarh’s 15.2 million voters are expected to cast their ballots in 8,883 polling booths on Friday, according to data released by the Election Commission of India.
As many as 379 candidates, including 36 women, are contesting in the first phase of polls that will start the election process in six states— including Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Delhi, Rajasthan, and Jammu and Kashmir—by the end of this year, considered especially important as national elections will be held by May next year.
Chief minister Singh of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is contesting from Rajnandgaon, and Congress party’s Karma is contesting from Dantewada in Bastar. Singh became chief minister in 2003 after the BJP defeated Ajit Jogi-led Congress party that had power since the state was carved out of Madhya Pradesh in 2000.
In the previous election, the BJP had won 52 seats, Congress 34, and the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Nationalist Congress Party one each.
The incumbent, Singh, is banking on his administration’s developmental initiatives and welfare measures, including populist ones such as selling rice at Rs3 a kg to the poor. The Congress, on the other hand, is seeking a vote for change.
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First Published: Wed, Mar 18 2009. 05 06 AM IST