Voters set to gather for next phase of elections in Chhattisgarh
Former chief minister Ajit Jogi and his two family members, IAS-turned-politician O P Choudhry and Sarguja's former royal T S Singhdeo -- there are many high-profile candidates whose fate would be sealed tomorrow in the second phase of polling in this tribal-dominated state on Tuesday.
Election campaign ended last evening for the remaining 72 seats of the Chhattisgarh assembly and the places where voting will take place include Kawardha, the home district of Chief Minister Raman Singh.
Singh is a registered voter in Kawardha, but contests polls from Rajnandgaon, where voting took place in the first phase of polls for 18 seats on November 12.
"We are expecting a pro-incumbency vote in the second phase also and people will come out in huge numbers this time also to vote for the BJP. We will definitely be coming back to power for the record fourth time in a row," Singh told PTI Monday.
While Singh has been the chief minister for 15 years in the state's 18-year history, traditionally the main challenger for the BJP has been the Congress. However, there is a third force in the elections this time in form of former chief minister Ajit Jogi's alliance with Dalit leader Mayawati.
Entire Jogi family except for his son, Amit Jogi, are contesting the crucial assembly polls in Chhattisgarh and they say their main aim is to ensure the defeat of both the BJP and the Congress in the state.
Ajit Jogi is contesting from Marwahi, his wife Renu Jogi from Konta and his daughter-in-law, Richa Jogi from Akaltara on BSP ticket. Jogi's new political outfit, Janata Congress Chhattisgarh is contesting polls in alliance with Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party.
Apart from them, the fate of 10 ministers is also at stake in the second phase of polling including that of Brijmohan Agrawal (Raipur South), Amar Agrawal (Bilaspur) and Rajesh Munat (Raipur West) among others.
There is an interesting parallel between Ajit Jogi and OP Choudhry as both quit coveted Indian Administrative Service (IAS) to enter politics. Besides, both quit from the plum post of district collector to foray into the electoral politics.
Jogi was the collector of Indore when he had resigned from the services to join Congress. He was later given berth in the Rajya Sabha and later became the first chief minister of the newly carved Chhattisgarh state in 2000. Jogi was chief minister till 2003 when the Congress lost power to the BJP.
Choudhry was also serving on the powerful post of Raipur collector when he decided to jump into rough and tumble of electoral politics by joining the BJP. The saffron party has fielded him from Kharasia seat where he is pitted against Umesh Patel, son of slain Congress leader Nand Kumar Patel.
Nand Kumar Patel was killed in the Jiramghati naxal attack along with other Congress leaders.
Besides prominent Congress leader and a probable chief ministerial candidate from Congress Charan Das Mahant is contesting from Sakti in Janjgir-Champa district.
The state Congress president Bhupesh Baghel is contesting from Patan seat in Durg district.
In 2013 assembly polls, BJP had won 49 seats, Congress 39, BSP got one and an independent candidate won from one seat.
In the first phase of polling for 18 constituencies including in 12 naxal-affected seats, the total voter turnout was 76.28 per cent and political pundits are expecting the voting to be high in the second phase also.
In 2013, the total turnout for all 90 seats was 74.65 per cent.
(With inputs from agencies.)