Sparks...

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - MYINDIAMYVOTE -

Mon­day’s first phase of polling in Ch­hat­tis­garh, which will be held amid tight se­cu­rity as­sured by thou­sands of po­lice and para­mil­i­tary troop­ers, will cover 18 of the 90 assem­bly seats in the state, where the re­main­ing will vote on November 20. Twelve of the 18 are lo­cated in the Bas­tar re­gion, a Maoist hot­bed.

The Congress won 12 and BJP six seats in the re­gion, where polling was less than the statewide aver­age of 77.12%, in the 2013 elec­tions. Over­all, the BJP got 49 seats and Congress 39 with one each to Bahu­jan Sa­maj Party and an in­de­pen­dent. This time around, Modi has vis­ited Ch­hat­tis­garh twice since the elec­tion was an­nounced on Oc­to­ber 6; Gandhi has been there three times.

“The first phase of polling is very im­por­tant for both the par­ties. The pat­tern and polling will re­flect the po­lit­i­cal wave in Ch­hat­tis­garh,” said Ashok To­mar, a po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor based in Raipur.

Polling in Bas­tar will also raise the cur­tain on the elec­tions that will take place over the next month in the Hindi heart­land states of Mad­hya Pradesh and Ra­jasthan, be­sides Ch­hat­tis­garh, Mi­zo­ram in the north­east and Te­lan­gana in the south. The polls are cru­cial as a pointer to what could lie in store in next year’s gen­eral elec­tions.

Shah praised chief min­is­ter Ra­man Singh for the so­cial wel­fare schemes he has in­tro­duced and for at­tract­ing in­dus­tries to the state, and ex­pressed con­fi­dence that the BJP will win a fourth con­sec­u­tive term in Ch­hat­tis­garh.

Gandhi ac­cused Ra­man Singh of in­volve­ment in a ₹5,000 crore chit fund scam and a ₹36,000 crore fraud in the state sub­sidised pub­lic dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tem — al­le­ga­tions de­nied by the BJP.

BJP spokesper­son Sac­chi­danand Upasana termed the al­le­ga­tions a bunch of lies. Congress spokesper­son RP Singh said Shah and Ra­man Singh had noth­ing new to of­fer the elec­torate and were re­peat­ing “bo­gus” claims.

Subrat Sa­hoo, Ch­hat­tis­garh’s chief elec­toral of­fi­cer, ex­pressed con­fi­dence that polling in the first phase in ar­eas where Maoists hold in­flu­ence will be peace­ful. “We have de­ployed ad­e­quate se­cu­rity forces to en­sure vi­o­lence-free polling,” he said.

The Cen­tre has pro­vided an ad­di­tional 65,000 se­cu­rity per­son­nel, drones and he­li­copters ahead of the polling in the state , where three ma­jor at­tacks by Maoists have been re­ported since the elec­tions were an­nounced on Oc­to­ber 6. “We have got 650 com­pa­nies for the first time for elec­tions in the state,” said spe­cial di­rec­tor gen­eral of po­lice (Naxal), DM Awasthi.

On Thurs­day, the Maoists blew up a bus with an im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vice in Dan­te­wada, killing four civil­ians and a Cen­tral In­dus­trial Se­cu­rity Force jawan. On Oc­to­ber 30, three po­lice­men and Do­or­dar­shan cam­era­man, Achyu­tanand Sahu, were killed in a Maoist at­tack in Dan­te­wada. Three days be­fore that, four Cen­tral Re­serve Po­lice Force per­son­nel were killed and two in­jured when the rebels blew up a bul­let proof bunker ve­hi­cle in Bi­japur.

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