Amid Maoist threat, Bastar set to vote today

A day after the killing of the BJP leader and four others, while entire Bastar region virtually turned into a war zone with heightened anti-Maoist operations and vigil by the security forces, a fierce gun battle took place between the Maoists and the security forces in Rajnandgaon at a location near Maharashtra border on Wednesday. (PTI File Photo)

Killing of a BJP legislator here by the Maoists has thrown a big challenge to the Election Commission to successfully conduct polling for the Bastar Lok Sabha seat in Chhattisgarh.

Challenge to ensure holding of a peaceful election in the Maoist hotbed of Bastar also remained equally high for the police and the central paramilitary forces deployed in the region after the Maoists killed BJP legislator Bhima Mandavi, his three personal security officers and his driver in a landmine blast at an interior location in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh here on Wednesday.

Amid Maoist threats, Bastar, which is the centre of all Maoist activities in different parts of India, is set to go to polls along with 90 other Lok Sabha constituencies across the country in the first phase of general elections on Thursday.

The banned ultra outfit—Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist)—has given a call for boycott of the Lok Sabha elections, threatening people of dire consequences if they cast their votes.

A day after the killing of the BJP leader and four others, while entire Bastar region virtually turned into a war zone with heightened anti-Maoist operations and vigil by the security forces, a fierce gun battle took place between the Maoists and the security forces in Rajnandgaon at a location near Maharashtra border on Wednesday.

The encounter took place after a joint team of the special task force and the district reserve guard raided a Maoist camp in Bukmarka hills in Rajnandgaon adjoining Maharashtra, according to police.

Maoists triggered three blasts using improvised explosive devise (IED), targeting the security forces. More information on the encounter remained awaited as the exchange of fire from both sides was on.

In Dantewada, meanwhile, the security forces foiled the Maoists’ another ambush plan. They recovered and neutralised two IEDs, planted by the rebels on road at an interior location in the district.

While the Maoist threat loomed large across the Bastar region, shops and other business establishments remained closed at most of the locations in Dantewada district following the killing of Mandavi.

The chief election officer Subrat Sahu, who held a review meeting with district magistrates and superintendents of police (SPs) in Bastar region on Wednesday, has instructed them “to take utmost precautions over the next few days." keeping in mind polling in the first phase on Thursday and second phase on April 18 in the state. 

According to Election Commission, over 13 lakh voters are registered to exercise their franchise at a total of 1,878 polling stations in Bastar. Of them, 741 polling stations have been marked as sensitive with highest 223 in Maoist-hit Sukma and 157 in Dantewada.

A total of seven candidates are in the fray from the Bastar. The Congress has fielded its two-term sitting MLA Deepak Baij against BJP’s Baiduram Baij.

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Amid Maoist threat, Bastar set to vote today

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