Raipur: A tentative voter turnout of over 53 per cent was recorded on Monday for the bypoll to the Naxal-affected Dantewada Assembly constituency in Chhattisgarh till the 3 PM deadline, which passed off peacefully, officials said.
The final turnout percentage might go up as voters are still standing in queues outside a number of polling booths even after the end of voting, he said.
The bypoll for the seat, which falls in the Bastar region, became necessary due to the death of sitting BJP MLA Bhima Mandavi in a naxal attack in April this year.
Notably, prominent candidates in the fray are the wives of Mandavi and senior Congress leader Mahendra Karma, who both were victims of naxal violence. Apart from them, seven other candidates are also in the poll arena.
While the BJP has fielded Ojaswi Mandavi, the Congress candidate is Devti Karma whose husband Mahendra Karma was killed in the Jhiram Valley naxal attack in 2013. Though no naxal-related incident was reported from the area during polling which began at 7 am, security forces recovered a 5-kg IED planted by naxals near Parcheli polling booth under Katekalyan police station limits, Dantewada SP Abhishek Pallava said.
The explosive was immediately defused, he added.
"After the deadline for voting ended at 3 pm, 53.25 per cent voter turnout was recorded in Dantewada seat, reserved for Scheduled Tribe (ST)," the poll official said.
Dantewada seat has 1,88,263 voters comprising 89,747 men and 98,876 women. Meanwhile, two former naxals—Kancha Bhima and Neelu—cast their votes in Gumiyapal village in Kirandul area, the SP said. They had surrendered to police recently. In a separate incident, a 33-year-old teacher, identified as Chandraprakash Thakur, on poll duty at Chikpal booth, died after complaining uneasiness before voting began, a local official said. A heart attack is suspected to be the cause of his death.
Dantewada is the only seat in the Bastar region which the BJP managed to win in the 2018 assembly elections, which installed the Congress in power.
In the 2018 polls, Devti Karma lost to Bhima Mandavi by a thin margin of 2,172 votes from Dantewada. Counting of votes will be taken up on September 27. In the 90-member state Assembly, the Congress won 68 seats last year and the BJP 15. The Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) and the BSP had bagged five and two seats respectively.