With just days to go for the first phase of voting in Naxal-affected Chhattisgarh, political parties have entered campaigning mode. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi held election rallies in the state on Friday.
Apart from the two major parties—Congress and BJP—another political party has also thrown its hat in the ring. 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 become a keenly-watched third force.
The state is scheduled to vote in two phases. The polling for 18 seats, spread across eight Naxal-affected districts, will be held on 12 November and the remaining 72 seats will go to polls on 20 November. The counting of votes will be held on 11 December.
While 190 candidates are in the fray for the first phase of polls, 1,101 nominees will battle it out in the second phase of the state elections, according to PTI.
Chhattisgarh is an important state for both the BJP and the Congress because Chief Minister Raman Singh is eyeing his fourth consecutive term and Congress is looking to wrest power from the saffron party.
Meanwhile, even Singh has acknowledged that Jogi would impact the BJP as well as the Congress. While Mayawati's BSP is known to attract Dalit voters, Jogi himself is said to have a stronghold among voters from his caste base of Mahars and Satnamis.
In the last Assembly polls, of the total 90 seats, the BJP had won 49 seats, Congress 39, BSP 1 and an independent candidate 1.
The first phase of voting will cover Antagarh, Bhanupratappur, Kanker, Kondagaon, Narayanpur, Bastar, Jagdalpur, Keshkal, Chitrakot, Dantewada, Bijapur, Konta, Khairagarh, Dongargarh, Rajnandgaon, Dongargaon, Khujji and Mohla-Manpur seats.
The highest number of candidates—30—will lock horns in the Rajnandgaon constituency, while the lowest number of five nominees will fight it out in Bastar and Kondagaon seats each, according to PTI.
Rajnandgaon: Of the 18 constituencies that go to polls in the first phase, six are in the Rajnandgaon district. According to The Economic Times, rising fuel prices and unemployment are a concern in the district.
Rajnandgaon will also be the most keenly-watched constituency because Singh and Congress candidate Karuna Shukla, niece of former prime minister late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, are locking horns here.
Both the BJP and the Congress are trying to garner votes in Vajpayee's name. While the ruling party leaders say the BJP and Vajpayee are "synonymous", Shukla alleged the chief minister was showing his "double standards" by claiming to follow the ideology of the BJP stalwart when the state government was "miles apart" from the former prime minister's teachings, according to PTI.
Bastar: Over 20 lakh voters in the Maoist-affected Bastar are ready to cast their vote in the first phase of the elections, according to The Times of India.
The Bastar region has been a witness to some of the deadliest Maoist attacks in the country, and a recent attack in the run-up to the election, in which two policemen and a Doordarshan cameraman were killed. The incident happened in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district.
There are a total of 12 seats in the Bastar region—Bijapur, Dantewara, Konta, Chitrakot, Bastar, Narayanpur, Kondagaon, Keshkal, Kanker, Bhanupratappur, Antagarh and Jagdalpur. Of them, eight are currently held by the Congress and the rest by the BJP