With the first phase of the Chhattisgarh Assembly elections are just a few days away, all major parties have finalised their candidates' lists and expedited campaign in their respective constituencies. The election to the 90 seats in the state are scheduled to be held on 12 and 20 November, making Chhattisgarh the only state this time where voting will be held in two phases.
The alliance between former chief minister Ajit Jogi's Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) made headlines when she announced it in September. The Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fielded their power players from their strongholds.
Rahul Gandhi's party is seeking to oust the saffron party in the state, where it has been in power since 2003 under Chief Minister Raman Singh.
Although the BJP had formed the government in Chhattisgarh for the third time with 49 of the 90 seats, the Congress (39 seats) had succeeded in narrowing the vote share. It had grabbed 40.3 percent of the votes, marginally lower than the BJP's 41 percent.
As the Congress and BJP as well as the JCC-BSP-Communist Party of India (CPI) alliance have all released the final lists of the candidates, here are some of the key players in the fray:
The BJP leader has enjoyed three terms as the chief minister of the state — 2003-2008, 2008-2013 and 2013-present. Singh is the second chief minister after the formation of Chhattisgarh in 2000. This year, he will contest from the Rajnandgaon constituency — his birthplace — seeking a fourth term in a row.
It was under Singh's tenure, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had honoured Chhattisgarh for its human development index. He is also a qualified Ayurveda doctor besides a recipient of the Institute of Excellence award, National e-Governance award, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam award and the National Water Digest award.
The Chhattisgarh Congress president will contest from the Patan Assembly constituency. It is assumed that he will be one of the top contenders for the chief minister's post if the party comes to power in the state, besides TS Singhdeo and Charan Das Mahant.
Baghel has been embroiled in a controversy over his alleged involvement in a fake sex CD case. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had filed a chargesheet in September, in which it had named Baghel and a few others as accused.
The controversial CD allegedly featured a state minister, who had rejected it as fake. The BJP has used this case to target the Congress ahead of the polls, while Baghel has pleaded innocence and described it as a political attack.
Jogi's electoral alliance with Mayawati and CPI
Ajit Jogi, who was the first chief minister of Chhattisgarh, dealt a blow to the Congress by allying his newly-formed JCC with the BSP and the CPI. He told The Hindu that after a three-hour meeting with Mayawati, she agreed to join hands with him for the Assembly polls in the state.
After the BSP-JCC alliance was formally announced on 20 September, Mayawati had nominated Jogi as the chief ministerial candidate from their alliance. The CPI joined the duo in October, with Jogi saying that its entry as an ally will strengthen their prospects in the Bastar, Surguja and Bhilai regions.
While there was no clarity earlier on whether Jogi would even contest the elections, the JCC confirmed on Wednesday that he will contest the polls from Marwahi constituency. His son Amit is the sitting MLA from Marwahi, which is a reserved scheduled tribe constituency. While Amit will not contest the Assembly elections this time, his mother and Jogi's wife, Renu Jogi, will contest the polls on a JCC ticket from Kota after Congress did not consider her this time.
Moreover, Jogi's daughter-in-law Richa Jogi will contest the polls from the Akaltara constituency in Janjgir-Champa district. Akaltara is currently represented by Congress leader Chunnilal Sahu. It is believed that Richa played a major role in strengthening the two-year-old JCC that Ajit founded after breaking away from the Congress in 2016.
Shukla, former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's niece, will take on Chief Minister Raman Singh in Rajnandgaon on a Congress ticket. She was among the six candidates named in the party's second list.
Shukla has been a vocal critic of the Raman Singh government. A former BJP leader, she had previously represented Chhattisgarh's Janjgir constituency in the Lok Sabha and was also an MLA in the undivided Madhya Pradesh. She quit the BJP in 2013 after accusing the party of torturing her "mentally". Her three-decade association with the saffron party came to an end when she joined Congress in 2014.
The BJP declared Shrichand Sundrani as its candidate from Raipur City North. The party had fielded 89 candidates, but had refrained from declaring a candidate from this constituency because of an internal dispute, according to local media reports.
Sundrani is the sitting legislator from Raipur City North. The constituency has 25,000 Sindhi voters, who constitute a major vote bank for the BJP.
Devti Karma is the sitting Congress MLA from the Dantewada (scheduled tribe) seat. She is the wife of late Mahendra Karma, a former Leader of Opposition who was the guiding force behind the "Salwa Judum" movement of anti-Maoist vigilante groups. He was also among the group of 29 — of mostly Congress leaders — who were killed in the Maoist attack in Bastar district's Darbha Valley on 25 May 2013. The then state Congress chief Nandkumar Patel and former Union minister Vidyacharan Shukla were also killed in the attack.
On 20 October, PTI reported that Devti’s son Chhavindra Karma also filed his nomination papers as an Independent candidate from the Dantewada, but according to a report, he has withdrawn his nomination.
Ram Dayal Uike
Uike is an influential tribal leader in Chhattisgarh and was the working president of the Congress party. On 13 October, in a blow to the grand old party, he left the Congress to join the BJP in the presence of party chief Amit Shah and Chief Minister Raman Singh.
The Dalits and tribal communities form a major vote-base in Chhattisgarh. Uike has filed his nomination from the Pali-Tanakhar seat, reported Dainik Bhaskar.
Choudhary is the former collector of Raipur who resigned from the position in August and joined the BJP. The party has fielded the former IAS officer from the Kharsia constituency, which is a Congress bastion.
After the BSP candidate from Kharsia, Vijay Jaiswal, has declared his support to Congress candidate Umesh Patel, it will be a direct contest between the Congress and the BJP in this constituency.
The first phase of polling will take place on 12 November in Chhattisgarh's Maoist-dominated areas, while the remaining constituencies will go to polls on 20 November.
About 190 candidates, including Raman Singh, are in the fray for the 18 constituencies where polls will be held on next Monday. Of the 18 constituencies, 12 are reserved for the candidates belonging to scheduled tribes and one for the scheduled caste.
Updated Date: Nov 09, 2018 17:08 PM