Kanker: Polling for the byelection in Maoist-hit Bhanupratappur Assembly constituency of Chhattisgarh began on Monday morning.
Seven candidates are in the fray for the bypoll in the constituency, which is reserved for the Scheduled Tribes, though it is largely seen as a direct contest between the ruling Congress and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The byelection has been necessitated due to the death of Congress MLA and state Assembly’s Deputy Speaker Manoj Singh Mandavi due to a heart attack on October 16.
The polling began at 7 am and will continue till 3 pm, an official said.
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The counting of votes will take place on December 8.
According to poll officials, 1,95,678 voters are eligible to exercise their franchise, including 95,186 men, 1,00,491 women and one third gender person.
A total of 356 polling stations have been set up, of which 239 are in rural areas and the rest in the urban part of the constituency.
Around 2,500 security personnel, including paramilitary forces, have been roped in for the smooth conduct of polling in Bhanupratappur, which is a part of Bastar division, a senior police official said.
The Congress has fielded deceased MLA Manoj Singh Mandavi’s wife Savitri, while the BJP’s nominee is former MLA Brahmanand Netam.
Sarva Adivasi Samaj, an umbrella body of tribal communities in Bastar, has also fielded its candidate, former Indian Police Service Officer Akbar Ram Korram, who is contesting as an Independent.
Korram retired as the deputy inspector general in 2020.
The Congress’ campaign was led by Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, while BJP national vice-president Raman Singh and state unit chief Arun Sao campaigned for the saffron party.
During the campaign, the Congress levelled an allegation of rape against BJP candidate Netam.
The Congress has claimed Netam is an accused in a rape case of a teen girl registered in Telco police station in Jamshedpur in neighbouring Jharkhand in 2019.
The BJP said the allegations were being levelled as the Congress was anticipating defeat in the bypoll.
The Congress highlighted what it claimed were pro-farmer and pro-tribal measures taken by the Bhupesh Baghel government, including the launch of the Rajiv Gandhi Kisan Nyay Yojana, the cow dung procurement scheme and distribution of forest rights certificates.
The BJP countered it by saying the state government had failed to protect reservation benefits of the Scheduled Tribe communities in the state.