Chhattisgarh election phase two voting today: State heads to polls amid heightened security; 1,079 candidates in fray for 72 seats
In Chhattisgarh, the BJP aims to win a fourth consecutive, while the Congress is seeking to end the saffron party's reign in the state after 15 years.
Chhattisgarh is all set for the second and final phase of the Assembly elections, for which there are 1,079 candidates in the fray for 72 constituencies in 19 districts. Voters can exercise their franchise between 8 am to 5 pm in these seats of central and north Chhattisgarh at the 19,296 polling booths set up for Phase Two.
All arrangements have been made, and polling will he held amid tight security, with over one lakh police personnel deployed to ensure a peaceful polling praocess. Extra vigil is being maintained in the Naxal-affected districts of Gariaband, Dhamtari, Mahasamund, Kabirdham, Jashpur and Balrampur, an official said.
The electorate in the second phase of the Chhattisgarh polls has 1,53,85,983 voters, including 77,46,628 men, 76,38,415 women and 940 of the third gender.
Eyeing a fourth consecutive term, the BJP has set a target of winning over 65 seats in the 90-member Assembly, while the Congress is seeking to end the saffron party's reign in Chhattisgarh after 15 years.
Also, the coalition between the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), former chief minister Ajit Jogi's Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) and the Communist Party of India (CPI) has emerged as a formidable third front and added a new dimension to the state politics.
The alliance is expected to eat into the vote share of both the BJP and the Congress. In 2013, the BJP, with 41.04 percent vote share, had won 49 seats, while the Congress had bagged 38 seats, with a vote share of 40.29 percent in the 90-member Assembly.
The BJP and Congress are contesting all 72 seats in the fray for phase two of the Chhattisgarh elections, the BSP is in the fray for 25 seats and the JCC, 46 seats. The Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party has fielded candidates in 66 constituencies.
Key candidates and constituencies
Among the 1,079 candidates in the fray, there are 72 each from the BJP and the Congress. The highest number of 46 contestants are in the Raipur City South constituency, while the lowest number of six contestants are in the Bindranavagarh seat.
Of the 72 seats, 46 are for the general category, while nine are reserved for candidates from Scheduled Castes and 17 for Scheduled Tribes. Of these seats, the BJP had won 43 seats in the 2013 polls, while the Congress had bagged 27. The BSP and an independent candidate had bagged one seat each.
This time, the fate of nine ministers, the Assembly speaker and a few other prominent leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as well as of the Congress will be decided.
Chhattisgarh Assembly Speaker Gaurishankar Agrawal has been retained from the Kasdol seat, which he had won against the Congress' Rajkamal Singhaniya in the 2013 election. This time, the Congress has fielded a fresh face, Shankutala Sahu, from the seat.
The nine ministers the BJP fielded for the polls are Brijmohan Agrawal (Raipur City South), 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) and also state party chief Dharamlal Kaushik (Bilha).
Chhattisgarh Congress president Bhupesh Baghel (Patan), Leader of Opposition TS Singh Deo (Ambikapur), Congress MP from Durg Lok Sabha seat Tamradhwaj Sahu (Durg rural) and former Union minister Charandas Mahant (Shakti) are among the key nominees of the Opposition party.
A three-way fight is expected in several seats of Bilaspur division, where Ajit Jogi's JCC and the BSP have a considerable presence. Jogi is contesting from the Marwahi segment, where the BJP and the Congress have fielded new faces, Archana Porte and Gulab Singh.
The Kota seat is also likely to witness a three-way contest among incumbent MLA Renu Jogi (JCC), Vibhor Singh (Congress) and Kashi Sahu (BJP).
In the Akaltara seat, Ajit Jogi's daughter-in-law Richa Jogi — contesting on a BSP ticket — is likely to give a tough fight to Saurabh Singh (BJP) and incumbent MLA Chunnilal Sahu (Congress).
Election campaigns and blame games
The high-decibel poll campaign, which ended on Sunday, saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, Chief Minister Raman Singh and his Uttar Pradesh counterpart Yogi Adityanath raising the pitch for the party. They had targeted Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and his family and accused the Opposition party of misleading people during its 50-year rule in the country. The BJP had also recalled the development works and achievements of its 15-year rule in Chhattisgarh.
The Congress, however, raised farmers' issues during the poll campaign and promised them loan waivers, bonuses on paddy procurement and food processing units if voted to power. It also accused the prime minister of remaining silent on the "corruption charges" against Chief Minister Raman Singh in the alleged Rs 36,000-crore civil supply scam and not acting against the chief minister's son Abhishek Singh in the case of the Panama Papers leak.
Besides flaying Modi for demonetisation, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi also dared the prime minister to speak up on the Rafale deal, which the Congress claims is India's "biggest defence scam".
In the first phase of the election on 12 November, voting was held in 18 seats in eight Naxal-affected districts of Chhattisgarh. Phase one of the polls had recorded a voter turnout of 76.28 percent, despite Naxals threatening people to boycott the poll process.
The votes polled in both phases will be counted on 11 December, along with those polled in the four other Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Mizoram and Rajasthan.
With inputs from agencies
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