RAIPUR — Voting for the second and final phase of Chhattisgarh Assembly elections began on Tuesday amid high security.
A total of 1,079 candidates are contesting in the 72 constituencies of 19 districts in the state with an electorate of 1,54,00,596.
This is the last of the two-phase polls to the 90-member Assembly where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been in power for the last 15 years.
"Voting begun at 7 am in two polling booths of Bindranavagarh constituency (Gariaband district), while in the remaining 72 booths, polling started at 8 am," an election official said.
The time of polling in 72 constituencies is from 8 am to 5 pm except in two polling booths — Amamora (booth no. 72) and Modh (no.76) in Bindranavgarh where polling is being held from 7 am to 3 pm due to the threat posed by Naxals, he said.
Around 1.50 lakh security personnel have been deployed across the state to ensure peaceful polling, he said.
In the second phase, districts like Gariaband, Dhamtari, Mahasamund, Kabirdham, Jashpur and Balrampur are Naxal-affected areas and extra vigil was being maintained there, the official said.
The polling will take place in central and north Chhattisgarh, where 72 each from the BJP and Congress, are in the fray.
There are 119 women contestants while the maximum number of candidates are in Raipur city south constituency where 46 nominees are in the fray.
The least number of candidates are in Bindranavagarh seat 6.
The fate of the state Assembly speaker Gaurishankar Agrawal (Kasdol constituency) and 9 ministers- Brijmohan Agrawal (Raipur city south seat), Rajesh Munat (Raipur city west), Amar Agrawal (Bilaspur), Bhaiyyalal Rajwade (Baikunthpur), Ramsevak Paikra (Pratappur), Punnulal Mohile (Mungeli), Prem Prakash Pandey (Bhilai Nagar), Dayaldas Baghel (Nawagarh) and Ajay Chandrakar (Kurud) besides party state president Dharamlal Kaushik (Bilha) will be decided in this phase.
Besides, Congress state chief Bhupesh Baghel (Patan constituency), leader of opposition TS Singhdeo (Ambikapur), Congress MP from Durg Lok Sabha seat Tamradhwaj Sahu (Durg rural), former union minister Charandas Mahant (Shakti) are among the key Congress candidates who are contesting in the final phase.
This time, the coalition between Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party, former chief minister Ajit Jogi's JCC(J) and Communist Party of India (CPI) has added another dimension to the electoral politics of Chhattisgarh which has always been dominated by the ruling BJP and opposition Congress.
A three-way fight is imminent in several seats of Bilaspur division of the state where Ajit Jogi contesting from Marwahi seat, his wife Renu Jogi (JCC-J) from Kota and his daughter-in-law Richa Jogi (BSP) from Akaltara.
Of the total number of voters, 77,53,337 are men, 76,46,382 women and 877 are from the third gender.
Of the total 72 seats, 17 are reserved for Scheduled Tribe and 9 for Scheduled caste.
A total of 19,336 polling booths have been set up for the second phase, of which 444 are sensitive booths.
Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPAT) were set up in all 19336 polling stations. EVMs will have 19,336 control units and 25,640 ballot units.
Of the 19,336 polling booths, web casting facility has been provided in 2,112 booths through which Election Commission of India can monitor those polling stations, he said.
For the second phase of voting, 84,688 polling personnel have been deployed including the reserve staff.
The polling parties were dispatched to their respective polling stations, he said.
The first phase of polls was held on 12 November in eighteen constituencies of eight Naxal-affected districts wherein over 76 percent voter turnout was recorded.
The counting of votes will be held on 11 December.