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In Chhattisgarh, Janjgir only constituency that will witness triangular contest between BJP, Congress, BSP this election

Janjgir: Of the 11 Lok Sabha constituencies in Chhattisgarh, only Janjgir, which votes in Phase 3 on Tuesday, will witness an interesting triangular contest between the BJP, Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

Its importance can be gauged from the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and BSP supremo Mayawati all held rallies in this region or in districts close to Janjgir.

Originally a Congress bastion, the Janjgir parliamentary constituency has been a BJP stronghold since 2004. The Satnami community dominates this constituency, which is a reserved seat for Scheduled Castes.

Situated 175 kilometres from Raipur on National Highway-49, Janjgir in Janjgir-Champa district has mythological, historical and archaeological importance. It is located in the centre of state and is known as the 'Heart of Chhattisgarh'.

A seat of Vaishnavites, Sheorinarayan town on the banks of River Mahanadi in this district has been associated with the Ramayana. According to folklore and mentions in mythology, Lord Ram, his wife Sita and brother Lakshman had lived here for quite some time during their exile. Historically, the Kalchuri dynasty had ruled this region, and later the Marathas turned it into a pargana (administrative unit). Janjgir also has evidence of historical monuments alluding to its archaeological importance.

 In Chhattisgarh, Janjgir only constituency that will witness triangular contest between BJP, Congress, BSP this election

A 106 year old church in Janjgir is a centre of attraction Photo by Debobrat Ghose Firstpost

According to modern history, the Jesuit missionaries from Britain came to Janjgir and set up a church along with a school in the beginning of the 20th Century. Local residents claim it was built between 1902 and 1906.

In the backdrop of this rich heritage, the electoral battle between the three parties has grown intense and fiercely competitive, but surprisingly, the poll campaign has remained low key. Hardly any posters and banners of party candidates are visible across Janjgir town or in neighbouring areas.

"It's more about one-on-one contact with voters. People know well who's a local candidate and who's an outsider. Obviously, voters will prefer a local candidate from Janjgir who can take up their issues in Parliament better than an outsider," said Shyam Jajodia, a Janjgir-based trader and the poll manager of Congress candidate Ravi Bhardwaj.

Candidates in the fray

BJP's Kamla Patle is the incumbent MP from the Janjgir Lok Sabha seat. She won from the seat in 2009 and 2014, but the party has denied her a ticket this time and chosen former BJP MP (2004-2009) from Sarangarh Guharam Ajgale to contest this time. As the BJP has been dominating this parliamentary seat since 2004, this is likely to work in Ajgale's favour.

The Congresss, on the other hand, has fielded a fresh candidate — Ravi Bhardwaj, son of six-time former Congress MP from Sarangarh, Parasram Bhardwaj. Ravi enjoys the reputation of a candidate with a "clean image", backed by the legacy of his late father, a tall Congress leader from Chhattisgarh who was close to Congress stalwarts Shukla brothers — Shyama Charan Shukla and Vidya Charan Shukla. Ravi is also a local resident of Janjgir town, unlike the other two contestants, which may prove advantageous for him.

The third candidate is senior BSP leader Dauram Ratnakar, who returned to the party in 2018, seven years after he was expelled on charges of "anti-party activities". Considered the strongest BSP face in Chhattisgarh, the three-time former MLA, who had formed his own party — Bahujan Samaj Mukti Morcha — after his expulsion, has considerable influence in the region. He belongs to the nearby Pamgarh town in Janjgir-Champa district.

Issues in focus

- People's dissatisfaction with incumbent BJP MP Kamla Patle

- Non-completion of the flyover from Janjgir to Champa even 15 years since the construction began

- Demand for engineering and medical colleges and an institute of higher learning in Janjgir

- Stoppage for long-distance trains at the Janjgir-Naila Station

- The return of agricultural land acquired by the Raman Singh government for 52 power plant projects, of which only two materialised

- The demand for a local Janjgir candidate to contest for the Lok Sabha seat

The triangular fight

After the candidates were announced, the contest seemed to be between the Congress and BSP, but soon after, the BJP's influence became visible.

BSP candidate Ratnakar's candidature may dent the vote bank of the Congress. However, in this agricultural belt, the Grand Old Party has been banking on its victory in the 2018 Assembly polls and the implementation of farm loan waivers.

"Congress will win in the Janjgir Lok Sabha constituency. We want the Congress party to win. Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel fulfilled his promises made to farmers of loan waivers and increasing the purchasing price of paddy. After more than 10 years, we've seen 'achche din'," said Ritiram Suryavanshi, a petty farmer and agriculture labourer of Janjgir.

Although all three candidates belong to the Satnami community, Ravi Bhardwaj has an edge as a local resident of Janjgir.

On the other hand, BJP's Ajgale initially found it difficult to make an impact as young party workers remained aloof towards him for a while after the party denied Patle a ticket. Senior party leaders had to take the lead in poll campaigning.

However, the situation changed in favour of the BJP after Modi held two back-to-back rallies in Korba and Bhatapara on 16 April. The party cadre are now visibly charged and ready to give their best shot.

"Modiji's rally has acted as a morale booster for all of us. It's clear that the people want to see him as the prime minister again, and they will vote for the BJP. We're confident of winning the Janjgir seat," said BJP MLA of Akaltara, Saurabh Singh, who is overseeing the poll campaigning in Janjgir.

The rallies held by Modi, Rahul and Mayawati, as well as that of Union minister Nitin Gadkari, all appealing voters to ensure the victory to their respective parties, have made this sole triangular contest in Chhattisgarh not only challenging but also a crucial one to look out for.

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Updated Date: Apr 22, 2019 16:22:42 IST