Raipur: A voter turnout of 70.59 per cent (provisional) was recorded in the second phase of Chhattisgarh assembly elections for 70 constituencies on Friday, where voting was held under a thick security blanket of police and paramilitary personnel, officials said.
A jawan of the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) was killed in a blast triggered by Naxalites in Gariaband district of the state when a polling team being escorted by security personnel was returning after conducting voting, they said.
Polling in 70 constituencies began at 8 am and concluded at 5 pm, except in nine polling booths in the Naxal-affected Bindranawagarh seat in Gariaband district, where voting was held from 7 am till 3 pm for security reasons, a poll official said.
"An average voter turnout of 70.59 per cent was recorded in 70 seats. However, this figure may go up as it takes time to receive final data from many booths," the official said.
Of the 70 seats, the highest turnout was recorded in Sanjari-Balod seat (Balod district) at 84.07 per cent, while the lowest voting percentage was recorded in Raipur City South- an urban constituency, at 52.11 per cent, as per the Turnout app of the Election Commission of India (ECI).
In terms of the districts, Raipur district, which has seven assembly seats, recorded a low voter turnout of 58.83 %.
Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel's constituency Patan saw a significant turnout of 83.90 %.
The second phase of polls will decide the electoral fate of political heavyweights like Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, his deputy T S Singh Deo, eight state ministers and four members of Parliament.
In the 2018 assembly polls, a voter turnout of 76.62 per cent was recorded on 72 seats in the second phase. This time, two of these constituencies were covered in the first phase of polling held on November 7.
The political fate of a total of 958 candidates - 827 men, 130 women and one transgender person - contesting 70 seats spread across 22 districts, was locked in EVMs.
As many as 1,63,14,479 voters - 81,41,624 men , 81,72,171 women and 684 of third gender - were eligible to exercise their franchise at 18,833 polling booths.
While a woman died of unknown reason when she was standing in a queue to cast her vote at a polling booth in Kasdol assembly constituency of Balodabazar-Bhatapara district, a man was killed in an elephant attack when he was heading towards a polling booth to exercise his franchise in Korea district.
Returning Officer of Kasdol segment Bhupendra Agrawal said the woman, identified as Sahodara Bai Nishad (58), fainted when she was standing in the queue waiting for her chance to vote at the polling station no. 76 in Malda village panchayat.
She was shifted to a community health centre in Kasdol by her family members with the support of polling personnel, where doctors declared her dead, he added.
In another incident, the man, identified as Umendra Singh (25) was trampled to death by an elephant near Mangora village under Korea forest division, a forest official said.
As per preliminary information, Singh was heading to the polling station to cast his vote and stopped on seeing a group of people who were on the way to watch the pachyderm roaming the area, he said.
The elephant suddenly charged towards the crowd. Singh failed to escape and got trampled to death, he said.
CM Baghel cast his vote in Kuruddih village in his constituency Patan Durg district, while Governor Biswabhusan Harichandan and his wife cast their votes in Civil Lines Raipur.
Talking to reporters, Baghel expressed confidence that the Congress would win 75-plus seats (in the 90-member assembly) and said there is a one-sided contest in Patan segment.
In Baghel's turf Patan, the BJP fielded his distant nephew and party MP Vijay Baghel. The candidature of Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) state president Amit Jogi, son of former chief minister late Ajit Jogi, added a new dimension to the contest.
When asked about the possible triangular contest in Patan, CM Baghel denied it saying it is people and farmers who are contesting elections (on his behalf) and not him. The contest is one-sided, he added.
Deputy CM TS Singh Deo (Ambikapur) and state ministers - Ravindra Choubey (Saja seat), Anila Bhedia (Dondilohara), Amarjeet Bhagat (Sitapur) and Jaisingh Agrawal (Korba) and state assembly speaker Charandas Mahant (Sakti), who are Congress candidates from their respective segments, were among those who cast their vote.
State BJP chief and MP Arun Sao, who is the party candidate from Lormi seat, cast his vote in Bilaspur segment. BJP MP and Union Minister Renuka Singh, who is party candidate from Bharatpur-Sonhat seat (spread over Korea and Manendragarh-Chirmiri-Baikunthpur (MCB) districts) cast her vote in Premnagar segment in Surajpur district.
State Chief Electoral Officer Reena Baba Saheb Kangale cast her vote at a polling booth in Dharampura in the capital.
Of the 70 assembly segments up for grabs, 44 are in the general category, while 17 are reserved for Scheduled Tribes and nine for Scheduled Castes.
In the 2018 assembly polls, the Congress had won 51 of these 70 constituencies, while the BJP could bag only 13. The Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) had won four seats and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) two. The Congress later won one more seat in a bypoll.
Among the candidates, 70 each are from the BJP and the Congress. There are 43 nominees from the AAP, 62 from the Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) and 33 from the Hamar Raj Party in the fray. The Mayawati-led BSP and the Gondwana Gantantra Party, a regional political outfit, are contesting in alliance and have fielded 43 and 26 candidates, respectively.
While the main fight is between the BJP and the Congress, a three-way contest is on the cards in several seats of Bilaspur division where former CM Ajit Jogi's party and the BSP have pockets of influence. The Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP has also been focusing on seats in the division.
The first phase of elections for 20 seats in the Naxal-affected state, which has a 90-member assembly, was held on November 7 and saw a high voter turnout of 78 per cent.