Voting for the bypoll to the Naxal-affected Dantewada Assembly constituency began on Monday morning amid tight security. Around 12.7 per cent voter turnout was recorded till 9 am. Votes will be counted on September 27.
The bypoll was necessitated after the death of BJP MLA Bhima Mandavi in a Naxal attack in April. Dantewada is the only seat in Bastar division that the BJP managed to win in last year’s Assembly election.
Candidates in fray
While BJP has pitted Ojaswi Mandavi, wife of slain MLA Bhima Mandavi, the Congress has fielded Devti Karma, wife of senior party leader Mahendra Karma who was killed in the Jhiram Valley attack in 2013. In the 2018 Assembly polls, Devti Karma had lost to Bhima Mandavi by a thin margin of 2,172 votes here.
Stakes are high for the BJP as it is fighting to retain the seat. The ruling party in the state, Congress admits that there is a reason to worry in the seat.
Congress party sources showed an internal survey report, done just over a month ago, that showed the BJP ahead in the key questions “which party will you vote for” and “which candidate will you vote for”. Party leaders have attributed this to infighting within the Karma family and said they have taken corrective steps.
The other candidates are Hemant Poyam (Bahujan Samaj Party), Sujit Karma (Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J)), Bhimsen Mandavi (Communist Party of India), Ajay Nag (Nationalist Congress Party), Ballu Ram Bhawani (Aam Aadmi Party), Yogesh Markam (Gondwana Gantantra Party) and Independent Sudru Ram Kunjam.
Voting underway under tight security
A massive security blanket of around 18,000 personnel, including those from paramilitary forces, and drones have been deployed near Dantewada to conduct peaceful polling, a police official said. Dantewada is part of the insurgency-hit Bastar region and is prone to violence.
Teacher on poll duty dies
A teacher, who was on polling duty at a booth in Dantewada died after complaining of uneasiness, news agency PTI reported. Chandraprakash Thakur n assistant teacher in a government school was deputed as the presiding officer at Chikpal booth (no.175) in Katekalyan area of Dantewada. Thakur complained of uneasiness around 6 am following which he was rushed to a local hospital where doctors declared him brought dead, the official said.
Prima facie, it seems that Chandraprakash Thakur (33) died of a heart attack but the exact cause of his death will be known after the autopsy, the official from the local administration said.