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JANJGIR

The rising mercury level has kept electioneering at a low key in this constituency of Chhattisgarh where there is an acute shortage of water and metalled roads.
PTI | By Press Trust of India
PUBLISHED ON APR 15, 2004 09:10 PM IST

The rising mercury level has kept electioneering at a low key in this constituency of Chhattisgarh where there is an acute shortage of water and metalled roads.

But these have done nothing to reduce the importance of the constituency primarily because a keen contest is on the cards between BJP Vice President Karuna Shukla, niece of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee making her debut in Lok Sabha polls, and Congress veteran Charandas Mahant on the lookout for a hat-trick.

The BJP's poll plank here is Congress President Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin and development while Congress is trying to cash-in on Shukla's "outsider" image.

The BJP is fighting the "outsider" tag of Shukla by pointing out that she settled in Chhattisgarh after her marriage.

One of the biggest headaches of Charandas Mahant is that supporters of Congress' most popular face Ajit Jogi, former Chief Minister, are reportedly not favourably disposed towards him because he had opposed Jogi's taking over the rein of the state after its formation, a job Mahant himself had eyed.

However, Mahant is banking on the developmental work like construction of bridges, schools and roads carried out during his previous two tenures as member of Lok Sabha.

Shukla's nomination had initially triggered murmurs of discontent in local BJP circles but she hopes that she might become a Central minister in the event of her election and BJP-led NDA returning to power galvanised the saffron party.

In a constituency of 14 lakh voters living in sparsely-populated villages, the joining of NCP leader V C Shukla in BJP has come as a boost to it which hopes to garner the vote bank of the former Congress veteran.

Barring the flurry of activities during Sonia Gandhi's roadshow in March and Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani's 'Bharat Uday Yatra' a week back, electioneering in the constituency has been dull.

During a day-long visit to the vast constituency, a PTI correspondent found that the frenzy usually associated with elections is absent. Barring some songs eulogising the candidates being blared out in village markets, there was no campaign activity at all. The searing summer could be a factor.

The Lok Sabha constituency is spread over eight assembly segments shared evenly by BJP and Congress.

In a 16-cornered contest, BSP and Gondwana Ganatantra Party could queer the pitch for BJP and Congress, depending on the extent to which they can dent in their vote banks.

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