65-70 percent turnout in Chhattisgarh by-poll

Heavy polling was recorded in rural areas where women and senior citizens were seen queueing up in large numbers at the polling centres, while voting was dull in urban areas though it picked up pace in closing hours.

Polling began at 8 a.m. amid tight security and was peaceful at all 187 booths except one in Gurur area where voting was disrupted for about 10 minutes following tension between cadres of the state's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress.

Election officials have put the overall voting percentage between 65-70 percent based on initial figures available to them, but they said the figure might surge once the details are available from polling booths in the interior areas of the cosntituency.

Heavy security arrangements were made at all booths with more paratroopers deployed at 27 sensitive and six hyper-sensitive booths. A total of 168,870 electors, including 83,425 women, were eligible to cast their votes. There were 15 candidates in the fray though the main contest was between the BJP's Kumari Bai Sahu and the Congres's Mohan Patel. The result will be announced Feb 17.

The Congress had lost the Sanjari-Balod seat, which is part of Durg district, by just a few hundred votes in November 2008 to the BJP's Madanlal Sahu.  The by-election was held as Sahu died following cardiac arrest in August last year. The BJP candidate is Sahu's widow.

The Sanjari-Balod seat is dominated by Other Backward Classes (OBC) and both the BJP and the Congress have fielded candidates from the OBC community. The Chhattisgarh assembly has 90 members, with the BJP having 48 seats. The opposition Congress has 39 members and the Bahujan Samaj Party has two.

As the voting ended, both the BJP and the the Congress claimed victory in separate announcements made in capital Raipur.

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