The 18 Assembly constituencies in Chhattisgarh’s Maoist belt that voted on Monday witnessed a 60.49 per cent turnout, according to preliminary estimates by officials from the ground.
If the final percentage from the 18 seats does not undergo any dramatic change, it will mean a dip from the 75.06 per cent clocked during the previous state polls.
The final turnout is expected to be closer to 70 per cent, the Election Commission spokesperson in Delhi said. Chhattisgarh chief electoral officer Subrat Sahoo said in Raipur later that a 60.49 per cent turnout was recorded, adding that the figure may go up.
Bijapur recorded the lowest polling at 33 per cent while Khujji topped with 72 per cent. In 10 seats, voting ended at 3pm to avoid possible attacks under the cover of darkness.
Security forces returning from poll duty gunned down two Maoists and arrested two others in an encounter in Sukma district in the evening.
Earlier, five CRPF personnel, including an assistant commandant, from the 204 Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (Cobra) were injured. The troops said 80 to 90 Maoists had launched an attack with mortars, grenades and light machineguns in the Mediguda forest in Bijapur.
Bombs were defused in three other places. On Sunday, a BSF jawan and a suspected Maoist were killed. The state’s remaining 72 seats will vote on November 20.
Deputy election commissioner Sudeep Jain said the electronic voting machines and the voter-verified paper audit trail devices had registered all-time-low failure rates of 1 per cent and 1.9 per cent, respectively. He credited the “excellent training of officials and technical improvements”.
In by-elections in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra in May, one in five paper audit trail machines had failed.
Raipur-based analyst Ashok Tomar said: “I expect the BJP to win four to five seats in Monday’s phase because of the better booth management it has in conflict areas than the Congress.”
The BJP now holds 12 of these 18 seats.
“Some areas, where people had not previously voted because of the Maoist threat, witnessed polling this time. I think this will favour the Congress,” Tomar said.
Chhattisgarh is witnessing a three-way fight between the BJP, Congress and the alliance between former chief minister Ajit Jogi’s Janata Congress Chhattisgarh, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the CPI.