Chhattisgarh always had single phase polling in Lok Sabha election since the formation of the State in 2000. However, in the forthcoming election, the State – severely affected by Naxalite conflict – will witness a three phase poll. In the first phase on 10 April, only one constituency, Bastar, which has eight Assembly segments, will go to poll. Polling will be conducted in rest of the 10 constituencies on 17 and 24 April. The State government has asked for nearly 400 companies of paramilitaries, officials told The Hindu.
An unprecedented number of forces, 600 companies, were approved in the Assembly election of 2013. However, only about 550 companies finally arrived.
The issue to conduct peaceful election in the seven partially Maoist controlled districts of south Chhattisgarh is the main challenge of the State and Central government in any election. While the government mainly depends on the security forces to conduct election in the Maoist areas, it also opts for ‘track two diplomacy’ with the Maoists to conduct polls. “We requested the civil society - individuals and organisations - including a few Gandhians, to ask the Maoists to exercise restraint during elections,” said former DGP Ram Niwas, soon after conducting the 2013 election. Besides Bastar, one other Lok Sab constituency, Kanker, is partially controlled by the Maoists in south Chhattisgarh.
However, Kanker is going to poll in the second phase with Rajnandgaon and Mahasamund. “That is because of a trend that illustrates that Maoists are slowly slowly losing grip over Kanker and adjoining areas,” said a senior security official. The security officials are also reluctant to have forces from the force of other States. “What is the use of having Kolkata police, trained for city policing, in Maoist areas…we want Central Paramilitaries,” said the official. Seven seats in central and northern areas will go to poll on 24 April, the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Sunil Kukur said.
In the last Lok Sabha election, BJP won 10 out of 11 seats. However, Congress had won 18 out of 29 tribal seats in the State in the Assembly election, which actually falls under three Lok Sabha constituencies. “Even if we can maintain our performance in the recently concluded Assembly election, we can win three seats,” said party spokesperson Shailesh Nitin Trivedi.
Realizing that they have a chance of winning a few seats in the tribal areas, the party is starting its programme – Manthan (discussion) – from Thursday. “We will discuss booth level management, Congress’ achievement and BJP’s non-performance in those meeting…we did Manthan in 22 Assembly constituencies and won 14,” said Mr Trivedi.