Chhattisgarh voting in final phase, 2-way contest with a Jogi twist
With polling starting in 72 seats spread across 19 districts of Chhattisgarh, the curtain comes down on the state assembly elections on Tuesday where the ruling BJP and Congress are in a tough fight even as an alliance between Ajit Jogi and Mayawati is expected to disrupt equations.
The first phase of polling in 18 seats in the Maoist strongholds on November 12 saw about 76% of the voters exercise their franchise.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is eyeing a fourth straight term for chief minister Raman Singh while the Congress is looking for a comeback after 15 years. In the 2013 election, the difference in vote share between the two parties in the state was less than one percentage point (0.75%). The BJP had won 49 seats, Congress got 39 and BSP and an independent bagged one each.
The 15 million voters in the second phase on Tuesday will also decide fate of former chief minister Ajit Jogi, whose Janata Congress Chhattisgarh is fighting the election in alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Jogi is banking on the Satnami community and scheduled castes who hold influence in 58 of the 72 seats in the plains of Chhattisgarh.
In all, 1,079 candidates are in the fray on Tuesday, including nine cabinet ministers, leader of opposition TS Singhdeo and state Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel, apart from Jogi, his wife Renu Jogi and daughter-in-law Richa Jogi. At least 100,000 security personnel including 607 companies of paramilitary forces have been deployed. As per the election commission, 46 of the 72 seats are general, nine are SC seats and 17 reserved for ST. In the 2013 elections, the BJP had won 43 seats while Congress had won 27. One seat each was won by BSP and an independent candidate.
During the campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed the Gandhi family was “out on bail” in corruption charges while applauding Raman Singh for bringing developmental change.
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi focussed on targeting Raman Singh with charges of corruption.
The Congress also promised prohibition, food processing hubs and farm loan waiver within 10 days of coming to power .
Of these 19 districts, seven are Maoists affected but the presence of rebels is much less than that in Bastar. “Special strategy has been formulated for these districts. We have deployed special task force (STF), companies of district reserve guards (DRG) and CoBRA in these districts,” said special director general (anti-naxal operations) DM Awasthi.
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