Chhattisgarh polls: The first phase of the Chhattisgarh assembly election, encompassing 20 constituencies, several of them located in the Maoist-affected Bastar region, is currently underway. The electoral process in this phase, marked by security concerns, has seen the deployment of over 25,000 security personnel.
Here are the key developments in this significant electoral event:
- IED Blast Injures Soldier: A soldier belonging to the CRPF CoBRA Battalion was injured in an IED blast triggered by Maoists in the Tondamarka area of Sukma. The soldier was on election duty at the time, underscoring the security challenges in the region.
- Reserved Seats: Of the 20 seats in this phase, 12 are reserved for Scheduled Tribes, and one is reserved for Scheduled Castes, highlighting the focus on representation for marginalized communities. Among these constituencies, Rajnandgaon has the highest number of contestants with 29 candidates, while Chitrakot and Dantewada have the lowest, with seven candidates each.
- Congress Campaign Focus: The Congress party's campaign for this election phase has centered on showcasing the welfare schemes initiated by the Baghel government, aimed at benefiting farmers, women, tribals, and Dalits. They have also promised to waive farm loans if they retain power.
- BJP's Campaign Strategies: The initial phase of the campaign witnessed Prime Minister Narendra Modi targeting Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel over the alleged Mahadev betting app scam. Other BJP leaders have addressed issues such as religious conversion, law and order deterioration, and corruption.
- Prominent Contestants: Notable candidates from the ruling Congress party in this phase include Chhattisgarh Congress chief and MP Deepak Baij (Chitrakot), ministers Kawasi Lakhma (Konta), Mohan Markam (Kondagaon), and Mohammad Akbar (Kawardha), as well as Chhavindra Karma (Dantewada), the son of the late leader Mahendra Karma.
- Key BJP Candidates: From the BJP, former Chief Minister Raman Singh is contesting from Ranjangaon against the Congress's Girish Dewangan, who chairs the Chhattisgarh State Mineral Development Corporation. Other prominent BJP leaders in this phase include four former ministers Lata Usendi (Kondagaon seat), Vikram Usendi (Antagarh), Kedar Kashyap (Narayanpur), and Mahesh Gagda (Bijapur), along with former IAS officer Neelkanth Tekam from Keshkal.
- AAP's Presence: The Aam Aadmi Party's state unit chief, Komal Hupendi, is contesting from the Bhanupratappur seat. Additionally, MLA Anup Nag, who was denied a ticket by the Congress, is running as an independent candidate from the Antagarh seat.
- Congress Dominance: The Congress currently holds 71 seats in the 90-member assembly. In the 2018 elections, they delivered a resounding defeat to the BJP, which had been in power in the state since 2003.
- Voting Schedule: The voting schedule varies across constituencies. Ten seats, including Mohla-Manpur, Antagarh, Bhanupratappur, Kanker, Keshkal, Kondagaon, Narayanpur, Dantewada, Bijapur, and Konta, will witness voting between 7 am and 3 pm. In Khairagarh, Dongargarh, Rajnandgaon, Dongargaon, Khujji, Pandariya, and Kawardha Bastar, Jagdalpur, and Chitrakot, votes will be cast between 8 am and 5 pm.
The first phase of the Chhattisgarh assembly election reflects the region's unique challenges and the competitive spirit of the contesting political parties.
- With inputs from agencies