With Naxal threat looming over the Assembly polls in the State, the Election Commission is planning to use helicopters to ferry electronic voting machines and the polling booth staff to far-flung areas of south Chhattisgarh during the first phase of elections.
“So far we have decided to airlift polling parties (polling booth staff) at 339 booths. It may vary according to the availability of the choppers,” Deputy Chief Electoral Officer Alex Paul Menon said here.
Mr. Menon did not reveal the number of helicopters the State Election Commission has sought from the Air Force for this purpose.
143 candidates are in the fray in the first phase of polls, to be held on November 11 across eighteen constituencies in the Naxal-affected Bastar division and Rajnandgaon district. A total of 4,142 polling booths have been set up in the area.
Sources said about 15 helicopters have been requisitioned from the Air Force as of now. The purpose is to ensure the staff’s safety, in the face of Maoist threat.
The ultras had targeted the polling personnel during the previous Assembly elections.
High security would be provided to helipads in the Maoist heartland, as Intelligence Bureau has tipped off that rebels may attack the choppers during take-off and landing, sources said.
As many as 167 polling stations in Bastar region are being relocated due to “security and accessibility reasons”.
Centre has sent 40,000 personnel of paramilitary forces, in addition to the existing forces in the State.