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Chhattisgarh elections: Stage set for high-stakes poll battle in Maoist-hit

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Raipur, Nov 11: The election season is all set to kick-start with the first phase of voting scheduled in Chhattisgarh on Monday. Amidst boycott call by the rebels, 18 Assembly constituencies of 90 is going for polls in Naxal-affected state.

Photo credit: PTI

Maoist outfits have given calls for boycott of the election and executed over half-a-dozen attacks in the last 15 days, three of them major ones which left 13 people dead including a cameraman of national broadcaster Doordarshan who was covering the election campaign.

On the eve of the polls, a sub-inspector of the Border Security Force (BSF) lost his life when Maoist detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) in Kanker district while a Maoist was gunned down in an encounter in Bijapur district.

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Voting will be held on Monday in 18 seats spread over eight Maoist-affected districts in the state.

According to police, escorting polling parties to their destinations and bringing them back after the polls pose challenges to them in the hotbed.

All counter measures have been taken to thwart attempts by Maoists to disrupt the poll process, he said.

A total of 650 companies (roughly around 65,000 security personnel), including of paramilitary forces like the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Border Security Force (BSF), the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and other state forces, have been sent by the Centre for poll duty, he said.

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These units are apart from the paramilitary personnel and 200 companies of state forces already engaged in the anti- Maoist operations in Chhattisgarh, Awasthi said.

He said around 650 polling booth parties were airlifted by helicopters on Saturday to remote areas while other teams were being sent by road on Sunday.

Choppers of the Indian Air Force and the BSF were pressed into service for the purpose, he said.

Security men have also been asked to avoid patrolling on foot as s are known to place iron spikes to inflict injuries, he said.

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They have also been asked to maintain extra caution and sanitise polling booths and other premises in sensitive areas, he said.

In the last 10 days, over 300 IEDs were recovered from the Bastar region and Rajnandgaon district by security forces, he added.

Another state police official said as many as 198 polling booths have been relocated in the eight districts going to polls, in view of the Maoist threat and convenience of locals.

The highest number of 76 polling booths were shifted in Bijapur, followed by Sukma-40, Kanker-25, Dantewada-21, Narayanpur-18, Rajnandgaon-12, Kondagaon-four and Bastar- two, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Drones have been deployed in sensitive areas to track the movements of Naxals as they might target polling personnel on way to the booths, he said.

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Police have been asked to maintain a strict vigil on the borders with Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.

Due to the Maoist threat, polling in 10 constituencies - Mohla-Manpur, Antagarh, Bhanupratappur, Kanker, Keshkal, Kondagaon, Narayanpur, Dantewada, Bijapur and Konta - will start at 7 am and end at 3 pm.

In the other eight seats Khairgarh, Dongargarh, Rajnandgaon, Dongargaon, Khujji, Bastar, Jagdalpur and Chitrakot the polling time will be 8 am to 5 pm.

On November 8, four civilians and a CISF jawan were killed when Maoists detonated a bus with an IED in Dantewada district.

Before that on October 30, three police personnel and a cameraman of national broadcaster Doordarshan were killed in a Maoist attack in Aranpur area of Dantewada.

On October 27, four CRPF personnel were killed and two others injured after Maoists blew up their bullet proof bunker vehicle with an IED in Bijapur district.

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