More than 600 polling booths in sensitive areas of Naxal-hit Bastar division, which will vote on November 7 in the first phase of Chhattisgarh assembly elections, will be under three-layered security cover, the police said on Sunday.
Around 60,000 security personnel, 40,000 of them belonging to the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) and 20,000 from state police, have been deployed for the smooth conduct of the polls in Bastar division which has 12 assembly segments, they said.
Members of the elite anti-Naxal unit CoBRA and women commandos will also be a part of the security apparatus, they said.
Due to security reasons, 149 polling stations in five assembly constituencies of the division have been shifted to the nearest police station and security camps, they said.
Naxal activities will be monitored through drones and helicopters. Bomb disposal team and dog squad will also be roped in, they said.
Polling to the 90-member state assembly will be held in two phases on November 7 and 17.
Twelve assembly seats of Bastar division are among the 20 constituencies that will see voting in the first phase.
Of the 12 seats, voting will be held from 7 am to 3 pm in Antagarh, Bhanupratappur, Kanker, Keshkal, Kondagaon, Narayanpur, Dantewada, Bijapur and Konta seats, while electors in the remaining three – Bastar, Jagdalpur and Chitrakot – will be able to cast their ballot between 8 am and 5 pm.
A comprehensive security arrangement has been made for the assembly elections in Bastar division, Inspector General of Police (Bastar Range) Sundarraj P said in a statement.
“Central paramilitary forces and special forces like District Reserve Guard, Special Task Force, Bastar Fighters (all units of state police) and CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action – an elite unit of CRPF) have been deployed for security of polling station and roads,” the statement said.
Special forces from adjoining states like Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha will also handle the front along the interstate border, he said.
More than 600 polling stations will be in a three-layered security cordon in view of sensitivity (in Naxal-hit interior pockets). There will be security arrangements comprising central paramilitary forces and local police in other polling booths as per the criteria of the Election Commission, he said.
Polling personnel and EVMs for more than 156 polling stations in the interior areas are being shifted to their destinations in helicopters, it said.
Due to security reasons, a total of 149 polling stations in Bijapur, Narayanpur, Antagarh, Dantewada and Konta assembly constituencies were shifted to the nearest police station and security camp.
In the 2018 assembly elections, 196 polling stations were shifted while 330 booths were relocated in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in the region, the statement said.
New polling stations have been established in more than 126 locations this time compared to the 2018 assembly elections. Of these, 40 polling stations like Minpa, Galgam, Silger, and Chandameta were re-established in their original villages after the security situation normalised there, the statement said.
At least five polling stations in each of the seven districts of the division will be under the protection of women commandos, he said.
In the statement, the IG said, the outlawed CPI (Maoist) has resorted to violent activities in its bid to disrupt the electoral process as they are frustrated to see the development and changing face of the Bastar region. It is the old style of Maoist organisation, which is proof of their anti-democratic face, said the statement.
On the other hand, the residents of Bastar, local administration and all security force members are determined to strengthen the democratic system and for the peace, security and development of Bastar, he said.
Sundarraj appealed to voters of Bastar to reach polling booths in maximum numbers to cast their vote and discharge their constitutional responsibility, assuring that all the security arrangements have been made for the peaceful conduct of the elections.
Naxalites have called upon voters to boycott the polls in Bastar region. They killed a BJP leader in a village in Narayanpur district on Saturday while he was campaigning for the party.
In October 2018, three policemen and a Doordarshan cameraman were killed in a Naxal attack ahead of the assembly polls in Dantewada district.
As many as 5,304 polling booths have been set up for the first phase of polling covering 20 assembly seats.
In the first phase, the political fate of 223 candidates, including 25 women, will be decided by an estimated 40,78,681 voters, including 19,93,937 male, 20,84,675 female and 69 third-gender persons.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)