Raipur: Citing security reasons, the Election Commission has relocated 200 polling booths for the May 8 by-election in Chhattisgarh`s Bastar parliamentary constituency where the Maoist shadow looms large.
"We have changed the voting places of 200 polling booths out of Bastar`s total 1,716 booths," Sunil Kujur, chief electoral officer, Chhattisgarh, said.
He said the "relocation of voting places was being done mainly for security reasons which was necessary for smooth conduct of elections". In 2009 when Bastar went to polls, some 88 polling booths had been relocated, he added.
Official sources said the 200 booths that were relocated were based in forested areas controlled by Maoists and the authorities were not in a position to hold elections and also to deploy forces and send polling teams.
"There are areas in Bastar where you can`t move a single inch without the permission of Maoists. These are heavily mined and police have not penetrated these areas for years. I know the tribal voters of these booths that have relocated will have to travel several kilometres on foot to vote at a new place," said a police official in Bastar.
He said the polling booths were relocated to areas close to the bases of police and paramilitary forces to ensure that Maoists don`t attack the forces or terrorise voters.
The state government has sought an additional 15,000 paramilitary troopers, besides several choppers, to hold peaceful polling in Bastar where for almost three decades, Maoists have been in control of forested interiors and carrying out several deadly attacks on forces and civilians, including the massacre in April last year of 76 security personnel in a single attack in Bastar region`s Dantewada district.
The Lok Sabha bypoll for Bastar was necessitated by the death of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Baliram Kashyap last month, who had won the seat four times.
There are eight candidates in the fray for the seat, which is reserved for tribals, but the main contest is between BJP`s Dinesh Kashyap, the son of Baliram Kashyap, and the Congress` Kawasi Lakhma.
Lakhma is a legislator from Konta, one of the eight assembly segments that make up the Bastar parliamentary constituency.