Chhattisgarh election: 18 seats, 190 candidates, over a lakh security personnel; all you need to know about first phase of polls today
The Chhattisgarh elections are a triangular contest between the BJP, Congress and the Ajit Jogi-Mayawati-CPI alliance, with 190 candidates in the fray for 18 constituencies in the first phase.
Voters in 18 of the 90 constituencies of Chhattisgarh are gearing up to cast their ballots in the first phase of the Assembly elections on Monday. These seats are spread across eight Maoist-affected districts of the state.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has governed Chhattisgarh for 15 years, is looking to win its fourth term, but lack of development, Maoist “infestation”, unemployment and non-fulfillment of poll promises have fuelled sentiments of anti-incumbency. These give the Congress an edge in these polls, especially in the first phase as it already holds 12 of the 18 seats that go to the polls.
However, these elections are a triangular contest, as the alliance between former Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi’s Janata Congress Chhattisgarh, Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party and the Communist Party of India adds another dimension to the state politics.
Candidates in the fray:
In his Rajnandgaon constituency, Singh is fighting the polls against Congress candidate Karuna Shukla, the niece of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
In Narayanpur, the Congress has renominated Chandan Kashyap against BJP minister Kedar Kahsyap. Chandan had lost to Kedar in 2013.
The Congress has also given a second chance to Vikram Mandavi from the Bijapur (ST) seat against state Forest Minister Mahesh Gagda. Mandavi had lost to Gagda in the last polls.
Prominent BJP leader and Kanker Lok Sabha MP Vikram Usendi is contesting from Antagarh (ST), where the Congress has fielded a fresh face, Anoop Nag. Usendi had won the Antagarh seat in the 2013 polls, but he resigned after he was elected to the Lok Sabha in 2014.
The ruling BJP has also fielded two sitting MLAs — Santosh Bafna (Jagdalpur) and Sarojani Banjar (Dongargarh) — whereas the Congress has renominated its nine sitting legislators — Manoj Singh Mandavi (Bhanupratappur), Mohan Lal Markam (Kondagaon), Lakheshwar Baghel (Bastar), Deepak Kumar Baij (Chitrakot), Devati Karma (Dantewada), Kawasi Lakhma (Konta), Girwar Janghel (Khairagarh), Santram Netam (Keshkal) and Daleshwar Sahu (Dongargaon).
Devati Karma, wife of Congress leader Mahendra Karma who was killed in the 2013 Darbha Valley attack, had defeated the BJP's Bhima Mandavi, but the BJP fielded Mandavi from the Dantewada seat again.
The saffron party has also nominated Dhani Ram Barse, who had lost to senior Congress leader Kawasi Lakhma from the Konta seat.
Chief Minister Raman Singh, two Chhattisgarh cabinet ministers and an incumbent BJP MP are among the 190 candidates contesting these 18 constituencies, of which 12 are reserved for Scheduled Tribes (ST) and one for the Scheduled Caste (SC) category. These include:
- Dongargarh (SC)
- Mohla-Manpur (ST)
- Antagarh (ST)
- Bhanupratappur (ST)
- Kanker (ST)
- Keshkal (ST)
- Kondagaon (ST)
- Narayanpur (ST)
- Bastar (ST)
- Chitrakot (ST)
- Dantewada (ST)
- Bijapur (ST)
- Konta (ST)
Twelve of these seats are in the Maoist-hit Bastar region and six in Rajnandgaon district.
The campaigning for the polls, which ended on Saturday, saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath raising the pitch for the saffron party on one side, and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi attacking the BJP over corruption, agrarian distress and unemployment in Chhattisgarh on the other.
Over the course of campaigning for the polls, BJP leaders tried to assert that the state was nearly Maoist-free, even as the ultras launched attacks on security personnel in Dantewada. Party leaders claimed Naxalism had been contained in the 15 years under the BJP and that the government had undertaken several development works.
The Congress, on the other hand, accused the BJP of "failing" to control the Maoist menace in Chhattisgarh and also brought up chit fund and civil supply scams during campaigning.
As many as 4,336 polling booths have been set up for the first phase of the Chhattisgarh polls, in which an electorate of 31,79,520 voters can cast their ballots. This includes 16,21,839 men, 15,57,592 women and 89 of the third gender.
Polling in the Naxal-hit constituencies of Mohla-Manpur, Antagarh, Bhanupratappur, Kanker, Keshkal, Kondagaon, Narayanpur, Dantewada, Bijapur and Konta will be held from 7 am to 3 pm.
In the other seats — Khairgarh, Dongargarh, Rajnandgaon, Dongargaon, Khujji, Bastar, Jagdalpur and Chitrakot — voting will be held from 8 am to 5 pm.
Nearly one lakh security personnel, including paramilitary forces, have been deployed across the districts heading to the polls in Chhattisgarh for the first phase. These are in addition to the existing paramilitary personnel and 200 companies of state forces engaged in anti-Maoist operations in the tribal-dominated state.
Chhattisgarh Special Director General (Anti-Maoist operations) DM Awasthi said the Centre has deployed 650 companies (around 65,000 security personnel), including of paramilitary forces like the Central Reserve Police Force, Border Security Force (BSF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police and other state forces, to Chhattisgarh for poll duty in the first phase.
Helicopters of the Indian Air Force and BSF have also been pressed into service.
For the police, escorting polling parties to their destinations and bringing them back after voting closes will be their biggest challenge in the Maoist hotbeds. Awasthi said around 650 polling booth parties had been airlifted by helicopters to remote areas on Saturday, while the other teams were sent by road on Sunday.
The second phase of the Chhattisgarh elections will be held on 20 November, and the votes will be counted on 11 December, along with those polled in the Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Rajasthan elections.
These Assembly elections are being considered the 'semi-final' before the country officially enters the battle for the Lok Sabha in 2019.
With inputs from agencies
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