Of the 1,797 booths in Bastar, 1,407 booths have been marked as ‘critical’ and all steps have been taken to ensure free and fair polling there.
An entire polling booth in Bastar Lok Sabha constituency was shifted to an open field after bombs allegedly planted by Maoists were found near the building where polling was to take place.
“We detected three explosives near the school in Kankapal village where the booth was located. Since we had limited time, we decided to relocate the booth to a nearby field,” said Shishupal Sinha, Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI), who was leading the police team protecting Kankapal poll party.
Maoist posters asking villagers to boycott the poll were pasted on the school walls and nearby trees. However, four of the 966 registered voters at this booth had cast their votes until 1 pm, polling official P.S.Baghel told this reporter. The figure remained unchanged when polling ended at 3.00 p.m.
According to preliminary reports, the voting percentage in Bastar was around 52, Chief Election Officer of Chhattisgarh Sunil Kujur said in a press statement. The actual figure could be confirmed only after all the polling parties reached the headquarters, he said.
The village wore a deserted look. “The Jangalwalas (Maoists) came to our village last night and threatened to shoot us if we vote today,” Eitu Ram, a villager told The Hindu. Almost all the residents had fled the village, he said.
Kankapal is 7 km from Tahakwada village, where 15 policemen were killed last month, and around 12 km from Jiram Ghati where Mahendra Karma and other Congress leaders were killed last year.
Sounds of explosion could be heard when this reporter reached the village. Around seven incidents of the Maoists firing on polling booth or polling parties were reported from Bastar and one police jawan was injured, Mr. Kujur said.“The Naxals tried all kinds of tactics to subvert the election process, but our jawans thwarted these attempts. Almost all the polling parties, barring one or two, have reached safe locations,” Mr.Arun Dev Goutam, Inspector General (IG) of police, Bastar range, told The Hindu.