Maoists looted 18 electronic voting machines (EVMs) and triggered low-intensity explosions in the first phase of polling in Naxal-infested Bastar region on Friday.
Friday marked the beginning of the second election since Chhattisgarh became a state in 2000.
The region’s voting percentage was about 50-55 per cent; it was about 56 per cent in 2003 elections.
Gunbattles between the police and Maoists were reported in Bijapur, Dantewada and Antagarh. At least five securitymen were injured in the incidents. Encounters were also reported from Pakhanjoor, Bhariamgarh Bijapur, Konta and Antagarh.
Over 50,000 paramilitary personnel and 15,000 state policemen were deployed in almost all the polling booths in sensitive Bastar. Maoists blockaded roads by felling trees and putting large stones in remote areas of southern Bastar constituencies of Bijapur, Konta and Dantewada.
Owing to security reasons, polling in Bastar was re-scheduled from 7 am to 3 pm so that elections officers and EVMs reach headquarters safely, before sunset. In other places, polling began at 8 am and ended at 5 pm. The Election Commission had to replace EVMs looted by the Maoists at four places.
The Naxalites had warned villagers not to participate in the election owing to which there was low turnout in booths in the interior regions of Dantewada and Bijapur. “The urban turnout of electorates was much better than the rural in Bijapur, Narayanpur and Dantewada,” said Bastar Commissioner R.S. Vishwakarma. 12 choppers, most of them from the Air Force were pressed into poll related service.