Security tightened for second phase of polling in Chhattisgarh
All arrangements have been made for the second and final phase of the Chhattisgarh Assembly elections to be held in 72 seats of 19 districts on Tuesday amid tight security, with the deployment of over one lakh police personnel.
The fate of nine ministers, assembly speaker and some other prominent leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as well as of the Congress will be decide in the polls.
In the first phase, polling was held in 18 seats of eight Naxal-affected districts on November 12.
Eyeing a fourth consecutive term, the BJP has set a target of winning 65 plus seats in the 90-member Assembly, while the Congress is seeking to end its 15-year exile from power in the tribal-dominated state.
The coalition between the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), former chief minister Ajit Jogi's Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) and the Communist Party of India (CPI) has added a twist to the poll battle.
Polling will be held from 8 am to 5 pm in these seats of central and north Chhattisgarh where as many as 1,079 candidates, including 72 each from the BJP and the Congress, are in fray, an election official said.
For the second phase of polls, there are 1,53,85,983 voters, including 77,46,628 men, 76,38,415 women and 940 of the third gender.
As many as 19,296 polling booths have been set up for the second phase, the official said.
The highest number of 46 contestants are in the Raipur City South constituency, while the lowest number of six contestants are in the Bindranavagarh seat.
Over one lakh security personnel have been deployed to ensure peaceful polling, a police official said.
Extra vigil is being maintained in Naxal-affected Gariaband, Dhamtari, Mahasamund, Kabirdham, Jashpur and Balrampur districts, he said.
State Assembly Speaker Gaurishankar Agrawal has been retained from the Kasdol seat, which he had won against Congress's Rajkamal Singhaniya in the 2013 elections.
The Congress has this time fielded a fresh face, Shankutala Sahu, from the seat.
The BJP has this time fielded nine ministers Brijmohan Agrawal (Raipur City South), Rajesh Munat (Raipur City West), Amar Agrawal (Bilaspur), Bhaiyyalal Rajwade (Baikunthpur), Ramsevak Paikra (Pratappur), Punnulal Mohile (Mungeli), Prem Prakash Pandey (Bhilai Nagar), Dayaldas Baghel (Nawagarh) and Ajay Chandrakar (Kurud), and also state chief Dharamlal Kaushik (Bilha).
Congress state chief Bhupesh Baghel (Patan), Leader of Opposition T S Singhdeo (Ambikapur), Congress MP from Durg Lok Sabha seat Tamradhwaj Sahu (Durg rural), and former Union minister Charandas Mahant (Shakti) are among the key opposition party candidates in the fray.
Jogi is contesting from the Marwahi segment where the BJP and the Congress have fielded new faces Archana Porte and Gulab Singh, respectively.
The Kota seat is also likely to witness a three-cornered contest among incumbent MLA Renu Jogi (JCC-J), Vibhor Singh (Congress) and Kashi Sahu (BJP).
In the Akaltara seat, Ajit Jogi's daughter-in-law Richa Jogi (BSP) is likely to give a tough fight to Saurabh Singh (BJP) and incumbent MLA Chunnilal Sahu (Congress).
Of the 72 seats, 46 are for the general category, while nine are reserved for Scheduled Castes and 17 for Scheduled Tribes candidates.
Of these seats, the BJP had won 43 seats in the 2013 polls while the Congress had bagged 27. One seat each was won by the BSP and an independent candidate.
During the poll campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and other senior saffron party leaders targeted Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and his family and accused the opposition party of misleading people during its 50-year rule in the country.
The BJP also recalled the development works and achievements of its 15-year rule in the state.
The Congress, however, raised farmers' issues during the poll campaign and promised them loan waiver, bonus on paddy procurement and setting up food processing unit if it wins the election.
It accused the prime minister of remaining "silent" on the "corruption charges" against Chief Minister Raman Singh in the alleged Rs 36,000-crore civil supply scam and not acting against the chief minister's son Abhishek Singh in the Panama Papers case.
The chief minister and his son had earlier denied the allegations against them.
The first phase of polls in 18 seats of eight Naxal-hit districts had recorded over 76 per cent voter turnout.
The counting of votes will be held on December 11.
(With inputs from agencies.)