With the first phase of the Chhattisgarh Assembly elections days away, the battlefield is set and campaigning by political parties is on in full swing. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is seeking to win its fourth term, while the Congress is aiming to dethrone Chief Minister Raman Singh's government.
Polling will be held in two phases in Maoist-affected Chhattisgarh. In the first phase on 12 November, voting will be held in 18 constituencies in the southern part of the state and in 72 constituencies in the second phase on 20 November.
Of the 90 Assembly segments in Chhattisgarh, 51 are general, while 10 are reserved for candidates from Scheduled Caste (SC) communities and 29 from Scheduled Tribe (ST) communities. Here are some of the key constituencies of the 90-seat House:
Bilaspur is a high-profile seat as it seen as a BJP stronghold. It is a commercial hub with large railway settlements, as it houses the headquarters of both the South East Central Railway Zone and South Eastern Coalfields Limited.
Shailesh Pandey of the Congress will face sitting MLA and Chhattisgarh Minister of Urban Development Amar Agrawal in Bilaspur. The Congress' Bilaspur unit spokesperson, Abhay Narayan Rai, protested in front of the party office after Pandey's candidacy was announced, alleging that Pandey was an outsider.
The Dantewada constituency is infamous for encounters between the Naxals and security personnel. The Congress fielded sitting MLA Devati Karma, the wife of Congress stalwart Mahendra Karma who was killed in a Naxal attack on 24 May, 2013, for the second time.
In the 2013 Assembly elections, the NOTA (none of the above) share from Dantewada was higher than the winning margin. Devati had defeated her BJP rival Bhima Mandavi, but NOTA votes had come to 9,677. The Dantewada constituency is also a reserved ST seat.
Rich in natural resources and also affected by Naxal violence, Kanker district has three Assembly constituencies, all of which are reserved for candidates from ST communities.
The Congress has fielded former president of Adivasi Congress Sishupal Sori. The former IAS officer hails from this region, and the party gave him a ticket bypassing sitting MLA Shanker Dhurv.
Rebels in this Naxal-hit constituency in Chhattisgarh have threatened people against voting in the polls. The Bastar Assembly constituency is also an ST seat.
Of the 18 seats that go to the polls in Chhattisgarh in the first phase, 12 are in the Bastar region. Bastar will be closely-watched to see whether the BJP can recover the seats it lost to the Congress in 2013 — the Congress had won eight of the region's 12 seats in the last elections. Healthcare is a major concern in this tribal dominated region.
Besides the 12 Naxal-affected constituencies in the Bastar division, the other six Maoist-hit constituencies that go to the polls on 12 November are in Rajnandagoan district.
The Congress has fielded former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's niece Karuna Shukla as its candidate against Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh for the Rajnandgaon seat. Although Shukla is a vocal BJP critic, Singh has a good hold over Rajnandgaon, his hometown. He made his Lok Sabha debut from Rajnandgaon in 1999 after defeating Congress leader Motilal Vohra. During campaigning for the elections, the chief minister assured voters he would turn Rajnandgaon into a "Smart City" and "get prosperity back" in the region.
Located in the Durg district of Chhattisgarh and officially known as Bhilai Nagar, the city is known for its steel and chemical industry, notably the Bhilai Steel Plant.
Bhilai Nagar is the stronghold of the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (CMM), which was founded by labour leader Shankar Guha Niyogi in 1986 to fight for the rights of miners and factory workers in Bhilai's Dilla Rajhara, where the Bhilai Steel Plant's captive mines are located.
Bhilai has been the face of friction on labour issues between activists and the Chhattisgarh government for years. Lawyer activist Sudha Bharadwaj has worked with the CMM for several decades and enjoys support from this city. With her arrest by the BJP-ruled Centre in August, Bhilai will be a constituency to watch.
The Congress fielded Bhilai municipal corporation mayor and youth leader Devendra Yadav against state minister and sitting BJP MLA Premprakash Pandey.
Raigarh is a city and municipal corporation in Chhattisgarh's Raigarh district. The constituency is also an ST seat.
Parts of Raigarh face the issue of man-elephant conflict, and remote villages of Raigarh face rail and road connectivity issues. The state had come up with the East Rail Corridor Phase-I project, the implementation of which aims to provide railway systems to interior areas. In 2017, the state government had taken up two-laning work for roads measuring 586 kilometres and spread over Raigarh, Surguja, Korba and Jashpur districts, which face road connectivity issues.
Leader of Opposition in the Chhattisgarh Assembly and Congress leader TS Singh Deo filed his nomination papers from Ambikapur in Sarguja division. When the Assembly seat was unreserved in 2008, the Congress turned to the royals of Chhattisgarh, fielding Deo, who went on to defeat BJP's Anurag Singh Dev by 980 votes. In 2013, Deo repeated his win against Dev by a huge margin of 19,558 votes. Following his massive victory, Deo was made the Leader of Opposition in the Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly.
Ambikapur has witnessed logjams between local villagers and Adani Mining Pvt Ltd over issues of proper compensation, rehabilitation and jobs because of the land acquisitions the company undertook for mining.
Raipur City South and Raipur City West
Both these constituencies are urban power centres. The Congress fielded Kanhaiya Agrawal, a new face, from Raipur City South against sitting BJP MLA and minister Brijmohan Agrawal. Supporters of Congress leader Ejaz Dhebar, who was seeking a ticket from the Raipur City South constituency, vandalised the party office after Dhebar was not named a candidate.
The BJP fielded minister Rajesh Munat from Raipur City West, and Vikas Upadhyaya from the Congress will contest against him.
Rekhchand Jain from the Congress will contest from Jagdalpur, whereas sitting MLA Santosh Bafna has been given a BJP ticket. Located in the tribal-dominated Bastar district, Jagdalpur was the focus of the Centre's Bastar development plan, for which the Jagdalpur airport was touted to solve the region's development and medical emergency woes. But months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Jagdalpur airport, it became inoperational.
It is a widely believed myth that the party that wins from this constituency forms the government in Chhattisgarh.
Congress leader Jaisingh Agrawal will contest the Assembly polls from Korba. The BJP has fielded Vikas Mahto, son of party leader Banshilal Mahto, from the Korba Assembly seat, considered a Congress bastion.
Korba is also a battleground for anti-mining groups. Village councils that had opposed mining in the district have complained that two to three years of mining activity has depleted ground water levels in the region.
Moreover, the thickly forested northern Chhattisgarh region, comprising the districts of Surguja, Korba, Raigarh and Jashpur, is notorious for incidents of human-elephant conflict. In the past few years, wild elephants have killed several people and damaged houses and crops in the region.
An ST seat, the Marwahi constituency has come under the spotlight as Janata Congress Chhattisgarh chief Ajit Jogi will contest the polls from this seat. The Marwahi Assembly constituency, which falls in the Korba parliamentary seat, is the traditional stronghold of the Jogi family. Ajit Jogi had won from Marwahi in 2003 and 2008. His son Amit is the current MLA representing the constituency.
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Updated Date: Nov 08, 2018 20:42 PM