Polling ends in Chhattisgarh’s final phase; Naxal blast claims ITBP constable

Raipur, Nov 17 (UNI) The second and final phase of voting concluded across 70 Assembly constituencies in Chhattisgarh where an estimated 68 per cent turnout was recorded amid heavy security arrangements until the 5 pm deadline on Friday though the final figure is likely to be higher as queues were observed on numerous polling centres’ premises.

A constable of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police attained martyrdom and an unspecified number of officials sustained injuries in an explosion triggered by insurgents who targeted a polling team returning from Bade Gobra in Gariaband district.

An additional force and an ambulance have been rushed from Mainpur.

Inputs from the Chief Electoral Officer’s workplace provided the district-wise voting break-up as Korba 72 percent, Koriya 74, Gariaband 71, Gaurela-Pendra-Marwahi (a three-part name of a single district) 71, Jashpur 71, Janjgir-Champa 66, Durg 65, Dhamtari 80, Balrampur 68, Balodabazar-Bhatapara 71, Balod 78, Bilaspur 61, Bemetara 73, Manendragarh-Chirmiri-Bharatpur 69, Mahasamund 70, Mungeli 58, Raigarh 72, Raipur 58, Sakti 64, Surguja 68, Sarangarh 66 and Surajpur 66.

The polling centres numbered 18,833 and the official timing vis-à-vis commencement of voting was 8 am barring nine places in Leftwing extremism-affected Bindranawagarh constituency where the limits were 7 am to 3 pm. Webcasting was arranged at 9,424 centres and videography at hypersensitive ones.

As many as 727 centres were ‘manned’ only by female officials.

The 1,63,14,479-strong electorate included 81,72,171 women and 684 of the third gender. The fortunes of 958 candidates including 130 women and one of the third gender were sealed in electronic voting machines.

The prominent nominees included Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel (Patan), his deputy Tribhuvaneshwar Saran Singh Deo (Ambikapur), Vidhan Sabha Speaker Charan Das Mahant (Sakti), BJP state President Arun Sao (Lormi), Janata Congress head Renu Jogi (Kota) and Union Minister of State for Tribal Affairs Renuka Singh Saruta (Bharatpur-Sonhat).

Incidentally, the state’s smallest polling centre was in Bharatpur-Sonhat’s Sheradand village, which has only five voters! The number of contestants exceeded 16 in 20 constituencies.

Counting is slated for December 3.

A turnout exceeding 71 percent was recorded on November 7 during the largely-peaceful maiden phase covering 20 constituencies, including ten in areas under Naxalism’s ominous shadow.

A CRPF officer was injured when an IED exploded within the restive Sukma district of Bastar division.

Amid heavy security bandobast, voting concluded at 3 pm on that day in the Maoism-hit zones and at 5 pm in the remainder constituencies.

In the words of SP Kiran Chauhan, “A detachment of the CRPF’s 206th Commando Battalion for Resolute Action had left Camp Tondamarka and was heading for Elmagunda village to execute an area domination exercise. Inspector Shrikant stepped on the landmine. He has been hospitalised.”

The ultras had issued a poll boycott call.

The timings for exercise of franchise were 7 am to 3 pm in Mohla-Manpur (9 candidates), Antagarh (13), Bhanupratappur (14), Kanker (9), Keshkal (10), Kondagaon (8), Narayanpur (9), Dantewada (7), Bijapur (8) and Konta (8); whereas it was 8 am-5 pm in Pandariya (14), Kawardha (16), Khairagarh (11), Dongargarh (10), Rajnandgaon (29), Dongargaon (12), Khujji (10), Bastar (8), Jagdalpur (11) and Chitrakote (7).

Of the total 5,304 polling centres, webcasting facilities were made available at 2,431. Twenty places were managed entirely by differently-abled staff. The fortunes of 223 nominees, including 25 females, were sealed in EVMs by members of a 40,78,681-strong electorate that included 20,84,675 women.

Prominent among the contestants were erstwhile chief minister Raman Singh – from Rajnandgaon – Ministers Mohammad Akbar, Kawasi Lakhma and Mohan Markam.

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