Raipur: Despite Naxal threat, 67 per cent of the electorate came out to vote in the first phase of polling for a new Assembly on Monday in the rebel affected areas of Chhattisgarh. The high voter turnout in areas of Bastar could hold the key to whether the BJP manages to maintain its hold. The polling day was also marred by two encounters between Naxals and security forces that left one CRPF soldier dead.
Defying all odds and the Naxal call for boycott people came out in large numbers to vote. At Darbha, not far from where the top congress leadership of Chhattisgarh was shop dead by the Naxal, more than 400 voters out of 600 odd registered in the polling booth exercised their franchise.
A local said, "The villagers here have come out to vote." Another said, "There is no fear. Since morning people have come out and voted."
Even though it was under heavy police protection, people of Bastar came out in large number and defied the Naxal call to boycott elections. It was not just a simple vote to elect the local MLA but was also an expression of faith in the Indian democratic system.
Over 8,000 security personnel were deployed in 12 Assembly segments of Bastar alone. There were sporadic incidents of Naxal violence while votes were being cast. Some IEDs were recovered during area domination exercises and 3 low intensity blasts were reported including one from Kanker. A CRPF personnel was killed in a firing incident near Dantewada where Congress has fielded Devti Karma, the widow of its slain leader Mahendra Karma.
Chief Minister Raman Singh said, "An increase in polling percentage is a positive sign."
Apart from Bastar, polling for six seats other seats including Rajnanadgaon where Raman Singh is in the fray also took place. The BJP had in 2008 won 11 out of 12 Bastar seats to pip Congress by a slender margin. Voting for the remaining 72 constituencies will be on November 19 in the second and last phase of elections.