JAGDALPUR: As many as 18 sensitive assembly seats spread in eight districts of Chhattisgarh will go to polls in the first phase of assembly elections here on Monday. Around 1 lakh security personnel have been deployed in Chhattisgarh for smooth conduct of the first phase of polling on November 12.
Around 1 lakh security personnel, including central paramilitary force, have been deployed to ensure peaceful polling in the first phase, Chhattisgarh's Special Director General (Anti-Naxal Operations) DM Awasthi informed.
A total of 650 companies, including those from paramilitary units like CRPF, BSF, ITBP and around 65,000 personnel from police forces of other states, have been sent by the Centre for the assembly polls, he said.
These units are apart from existing paramilitary personnel and 200 companies of state forces engaged in anti-Naxal operations in Chhattisgarh, the Special DG said.
He informed that around 650 polling booth parties were airlifted by helicopters Saturday to remote areas while other teams would be sent by road Sunday.
Indian Air Force and BSF choppers were pressed into service for the purpose, he said.
Naxal outfits have given calls for a boycott of the elections and have also carried out three major attacks in the last fortnight which have claimed the lives of 13 people, including eight security personnel.
In the last 10 days, over 300 IEDs were recovered from Bastar region and Rajnandgaon district by security forces, he said, adding that all necessary measures had been taken to thwart attempts by Maoists to disrupt the poll process.
Chief Minister Raman Singh is hoping to continue his victory spree from the Rajnandgaon seat for the third consecutive term.
This time he is seeking re-election against Karuna Shukla of the Congress party, who is the niece of former Prime Minister and prominent BJP leader late Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Shukla was a BJP Member of Parliament from Janjjir Lok Sabha constituency but she left the party in 2013 and joined the Congress in 2014.
The same year during the General Elections while contesting on the Congress ticket from Bilaspur, she lost to the BJP candidate Lakhanlal Sahu.
Since then, she has been actively engaged in the state politics, particularly in Rajnandgaon.
At present, the Congress rules over 39 seats in the state, while the ruling BJP holds 49 seats in the region.
In the previous assembly elections held in 2013, the BJP, although retained power in the state, lost its mark in Bastar division and the Congress had an upper hand in the region.
Out of a total of 12 seats, the Congress grabbed eight seats while the BJP managed to win only four seats.
In the past five years, the Raman Singh-led government has reportedly undertaken plenty of development works in Bastar.
There are many assembly constituencies in Bastar division, where the BJP has given tickets to the old faces.
In Rajnandgaon district, the party has fielded new faces in the region, which has six constituencies at stake.
The BJP government has claimed to have taken strict steps in tackling Naxalism. However, local residents of Bastar are still struggling with the decade-long problem.
This factor could damage the BJP`s prospects this time around.
The BJP and the Congress leaders have left nothing unturned to turn the table on each other during their campaign.
Speaking at a rally in the state where the first phase voting will take place on November 12 and second phase on 20, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused the Congress of supporting 'Urban Naxals.'
He said, "Children who should hold pens in their hands, they are now holding guns in a monstrous manner. Urban Maoists live a luxurious lifestyle while they ruin the lives of children belonging to the tribal community, and Congress supports these people (urban Maoists)."
Similarly, Congress has tried to woo the voters promising immediate loan waivers to poor farmers within 10 days of forming the government in the state.
The party has also promised better healthcare facilities and a safer society for women in Chhattisgarh.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi has repeatedly asserted his resolve to ensure all-round development of the state if his party is voted to power.
(With Agency inputs)