Security Forces Gear Up as Naxal-hit Bastar Prepares to Hit the Polls in a Week
BJP is fielding the former MLA Baiduram Kashyap against Congress' Deepak Kumar Baij in Bastar.
File photo of Bastar voters.
New Delhi: The hotbed of Naxal violence, Chattisgarh’s Bastar district is all set to hit the polls in a week. The only Lok Sabha constituency in Chattisgarh to vote in the first phase, Bastar has remained a saffron stronghold with the BJP winning the seat in last six elections.
This time’s contest, however, might just prove to a major challenge for the BJP given that its rival – the Congress party, clinched a thumping victory in the recent Assembly elections.
Congress’s Bhupesh Bhagel took up the mantel of the Chief Minister in the state after the grand old party won with a brute majority.
Bastar was one of the districts where Congress managed a sweeping victory.
Of the seven assembly constituencies in the Bastar Lok Sabha (Kondagaon, Narayanpur, Bastar, Jagdalpur, Chitrakot, Dantewada, Bijapur, Konta, Sukma) BJP won in just one - Dantewada.
The loss was accentuated by the fact that the ruling party in the Centre conceded defeat in Narayanpur and Jagdalpur, where it has a strong presence and has won in the Assembly elections in 2013 and 2008.
Having replaced its sitting MP candidates from all of Chhattisgarh’s Lok Sabha seats, including Bastar, the BJP is now fielding two-time former MLA Baiduram Kashyap in the Naxal-affected constituency.
Kashyap will go head-to-head with Congress MLA from Chitrakot, Deepak Kumar Baij.
While BJP has been banking on PM Narendra Modi’s name, Congress has chosen to emphasise the farm loan waiver schemes and increased minimum support price for paddy crops that was recently implemented under the Bhupesh Bhagel government.
The Lok Sabha constituency is going to polls at a time when Naxals are said to be on the prowl.
It was around this time nine years ago (in April 2010) when Naxals had, after laying an ambush, opened fire on CRPF soldiers killing 76 of them in Tadmetla.
The region has been plagued by violence since March 2007 when Naxals killed 55 paramilitary soldiers in Bijapur. Then in May 2010, 12 soldiers and 36 civilians were killed in Dantewada.
In May 2012, Naxals killed four soldiers, and a year later they killed more than 30 of the Congress leaders who had been out campaigning in Sukma,
Following this, in March 2014 as many as 15 soldiers were killed in Jeeram.
The police have roped in 300 volunteers from the six districts of the region to encourage people to vote. Security agencies have also deployed troops along the state boundaries to ensure security.
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