Amid tight security, polling began at 8 am for the second and concluding phase on Tuesday for 72 seats spread across 19 districts to elect a new Chhattisgarh Assembly, officials said.

A total of 1,079 candidates are in the fray, and both Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are contesting all the 72 seats. The Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is in the fray for 25 seats and its ally and former Chief Minister Jogi’s Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (J) is vying in 46 seats.

The Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has fielded candidates in 66 constituencies.

An electorate of over 1.5 crore, including over 77 lakh male and over 76 lakh female voters, are eligible to exercise their franchise. There are nearly 1,000 voters from the third gender.

This is the last of the two-phase polls to the 90-member Assembly where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been in power for the last 15 years.

“Voting begun at 7 am in two polling booths of Bindranavagarh constituency (Gariaband district), while in the remaining 72 booths, polling started at 8 am,” an election official said.

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The time of polling in 72 constituencies is from 8 am to 5 pm except in two polling booths- Amamora (booth no. 72) and Modh (no.76) in Bindranavgarh where polling is being held from 7 am to 3 pm due to the threat posed by Naxals, he said.

Around 1.50 lakh security personnel have been deployed across the state to ensure peaceful polling, he said.

In the second phase, districts like Gariaband, Dhamtari, Mahasamund, Kabirdham, Jashpur and Balrampur are Naxal-affected areas and extra vigil was being maintained there, the official said.

The fate of the state Assembly speaker Gaurishankar Agrawal (Kasdol constituency) and 9 ministers- Brijmohan Agrawal (Raipur city south seat), Rajesh Munat (Raipur city west), Amar Agrawal (Bilaspur), Bhaiyyalal Rajwade (Baikunthpur), Ramsevak Paikra (Pratappur), Punnulal Mohile (Mungeli), Prem Prakash Pandey (Bhilai Nagar), Dayaldas Baghel (Nawagarh) and Ajay Chandrakar (Kurud) besides party state president Dharamlal Kaushik (Bilha) will be decided in this phase.

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Besides, Congress state chief Bhupesh Baghel (Patan constituency), leader of opposition TS Singhdeo (Ambikapur), Congress MP from Durg Lok Sabha seat Tamradhwaj Sahu (Durg rural), former union minister Charandas Mahant (Shakti) are among the key Congress candidates who are contesting in the final phase.

The first phase of polls was held on November 12 in eighteen constituencies of eight Naxal-affected districts wherein over 76 per cent voter turnout was recorded.

The counting of votes will be held on December 11.

(With agency inputs)