Amid tight security, the first phase of polling for panchayat bodies in Chhattisgarh’s Maoist-affected districts will be held on Tuesday. “Preparations have been made for the first phase of polling for posts of 36,473 ward panch, 4,620 sarpanches, 1,144 janpad panchayat members and 167 posts of Zila panchayat members,” State election commissioner Thakur Ram Singh said at a press conference here on Monday.

Elaborate security arrangements have been made for a peaceful conduct of the polling, he said. In the first phase, a total of 61,74,224 voters – 30,85,320 males, 30,88,835 females and 69 of the third gender spread across 847-gram    panchayats in 57 development blocks will be eligible to exercise their franchise, he said.

For this leg, 12,572 polling booths have been set up and polling parties have started reaching their respective destinations, he added. The first round of the three-phase three-tier Panchayati Raj elections would decide the fate of 1,16,776 candidates, he said.

The polling time in the insurgency-hit Dantewada, Sukma, Narayanpur and Bijapur districts and Jagdalpur, Lohandiguda, Bastanar and Darbha blocks of Bastar district, Antagarh, Kayalibeda, Bhanupratappur and Durgukondal blocks of Kanker district will be from 6.45 am to 2 pm because of Maoist threat. Elsewhere, voting will be held from 7 am to 3 pm.

According to police, Maoist in remote villages of Bastar had recently put up posters calling for a boycott of the panchayat polls. In view of this, additional security arrangements have been made at polling booths in sensitive locations, while patrolling has been intensified in the forests of Bastar division, they said.

The second and third phase of polling is scheduled for January 31 and February 3, respectively. Paper ballots are being used in these elections. Counting will be held in respective polling booths soon after polling is over in each phase, Singh said.

However, if it is deemed necessary to carry out counting at block headquarters in case of any issue then such enumeration of votes will be held at block headquarters on January 29, February 1 and February 4, for first, second and third phases respectively, he said.