Several exit polls have projected an advantage for the Congress in Chhattisgarh this election and indicated that Chief Minister Raman Singh’s popularity may be waning. Singh has been chief minister since 2003. Chhattisgarh has 90 seats in the assembly, with the halfway mark at 46. In 2013, the BJP had won 49 seats, the Congress 39 seats, BSP 1 seat and ‘others’ 1 seat.
However, Singh has expressed confidence that BJP will come to power this time around as well. He said, “The situation of a hung assembly will not arise. BJP will form the government with a majority. I am confident that the BJP will form the government for the fourth time without anyone’s support.”
A total of 1,291 were in the fray for the polls this year. Ahead of counting day, here’s a look at the star candidates, turncoats and bellwether constituencies.
List of star candidates and their constituencies
Ajit Jogi: The former chief minister and chief of Chhattisgarh Janata Congress party, Ajit Jogi is contesting from the Marwahi constituency in Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh which is a reserved seat for Scheduled Tribes. Jogi has aligned with the BSP in this election and the outcome of the election is likely to depend on his capacity to damage the Congress or the BJP. Jogi wants to become a kingmaker and is expecting a fractured mandate but he will have to win this seat. If he cannot, then his party may face an existential crisis.
Raman Singh: The Chhattisgarh chief minister is contesting from the Rajnandgoan seat. Battling anti-incumbency of 15 years, Singh is facing a challenge of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s niece Karuna Shukla who is contesting from this seat on a Congress ticket.
Richa Jogi: Ajit Jogi’s daughter-in-law is contesting her first election from the Akaltara seat on a BSP ticket. Jogi’s son Amit backed out from contesting elections at the last moment. Richa’s win could also trigger a political feud inside the family as Amit is not very popular in the state but Richa commands the respect of Chhattisgarh Janata Party’s cadre.
TS Singh Deo: The leader of opposition in the state assembly, this Congress politician is contesting from the Ambikapur assembly segment of the Sarguja district. In case the Congress wins this election, Deo will be a frontrunner for the chief ministerial post.
Raipur West: This seat is witnessing a close fight between PWD leader Rajesh Munat and young Congress leader Vikas Upadhyay. Munat had won this seat in 2013 with a narrow margin. The outcome of this seat can also give a sense of which way the state election is swinging.
Raipur South: BJP heavyweight, minister Brijmohan Agrawal is contesting from this seat. He is also considered a contender for the chief minister’s post and competitor of Raman Singh.
Durg Rural: The Congress has fielded its only MP from Chhattisgarh Tamradhwaj Sahu from this seat. He is being projected as the OBC face by the party, but faces challenges from inside the party as he could be one of the chief ministerial candidates from the Congress. If he wins this seat, it will mean consolidation of OBCs behind Congress in the plains of Chhattisgarh.
Ram Dayal: Unlike former executive president of the Congress in Chhattisgarh, Dayal quit the party on the eve of elections and joined the BJP. He is contesting from the Pali Tankhar (ST) seat.
Dharamjeet Singh: Former Congress politician who is now with Ajit Jogi's Chhattisgarh Janata Congress party. He is contesting from the Lormi seat.
Possible underdogs to watch
Kawasi Lakhma: A tribal leader from the Maoist insurgency-hit Sukma district, he was the deputy leader of the Congress in the last assembly polls. He is contesting from the Konta seat and can become the tribal face of the Congress if it comes to power.
Bhupesh Baghel: The president of Congress's Chhattisgarh unit, Baghel was sidelined at the time of ticket distribution. It will be interesting to see what the Congress does after the election results if he wins from the Patan assembly seat in Durg district.