RAIPUR: Around 18,000 security personnel will ensure safe conduct of the assembly bypoll in Naxal-affected Dantewada seat in Chhattisgarh's Bastar region on September 23, a senior police official said on Saturday.
The bypoll for the ST constituency was necessitated following the death of BJP legislator Bhima Mandavi in a Naxal attack in April this year.
"Elaborate security arrangements have been made to ensure peaceful polling in Dantewada assembly seat. All necessary measures had been taken to thwart attempts by Maoists to disrupt the poll process," Deputy Inspector General (anti-Naxal operations) Sundarraj P told PTI.
Around 18,000 security personnel, including from paramilitary forces, have been deployed for the safety of polling booths and carrying out search operations in the forest, he said.
While the Centre has sent about 7000 personnel of the Central Armed Police Force (CAPF), around 11,000 jawans, including those from paramilitary and state forces engaged in anti-Maoist operations, have also been roped in, he added.
"Patrolling has been intensified in the area and drones are being used to track the movement of Naxals in the vicinity of security camps and sensitive polling booths," he said.
He said the security forces have been directed to take extra caution as Maoists have been observing their annual "foundation week" from September 21 to 27 during which they try to create disturbances.
According to a poll official, as many as 1,88,263 voters, including 89,747 men and 98,876 women, will be able to exercise their franchise in the constituency for which 273 polling stations have been established.
Polling will be held between 7 am and 3 pm, he added.
A total of nine candidates are in the fray for the byelection wherein ruling Congress has fielded Devti Karma, wife of Congress leader Mahendra Karma who was killed in the Jhiram valley Naxal attack in 2013, and BJP's Ojaswi Mandavi, wife of slain Bhima Mandavi.
In the 2018 assembly polls, Devti Karma had lost to Bhima Mandavi by a narrow margin of 2,172 votes.
In 2013, Devti Karma had defeated Mandavi.
Mandavi and four policemen were killed on April 9 when Naxals blew up their vehicle in a powerful IED blast near Shyamgiri village of Dantewada district.
Dantewada was the only assembly constituency won by the BJP in the 2018 elections in the Bastar division, which consists of 12 Assembly segments.
In the 90-member House, the Congress had bagged 68 seats while the BJP 15.
The Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) won five and two seats, respectively.