By Sahar Khan
RAIPUR, Nov. 16
The second phase of polling for the remaining 70 seats in Chhattisgarh will be held on Friday after an impressive voter turnout at 78 percent recorded in the first phase that saw the Naxal poll boycott call and threat defied on November 7.
In the Chhattisgarh Assembly polls, which is the fifth after the state was carved out in November 2000, usually witness direct contests between the Congress and BJP, pitted against each other in the largely bipolar politics.
Chhattisgarh is the only among the five states where Assembly polls are held this year (the elections in Mizoram accomplished on November 7), with two-phase elections on November 7 and November 17 for the 90-member House scheduled owing to Maoist threat perception and inhospitable terrain. The Election Commission of India looks forward to ensuring free, participative and peaceful polls. Interestingly, for the first time the number of women voters outnumbered men in the state.
The second phase will decide the fate of several senior political leaders, including the chief minister Bhupesh Baghel, speaker Charandas Mahant, Dy CM Tribhuwaneshwar Saran Singhdeo, other state ministers Amarjeet Bhagat, Shiv Dehariya, Jai Singh Agrawal, Tamradhwaj Sahu. Similarly, BJP state president Arun Sao, union minister of state for tribal affairs Renuka Singh, BJP MP Gomti Sai, senior BJP MLAs Brijmohan Agrawal and Ajay Chandrakar are also in the fray.
The chief electoral officer (Chhattisgarh) Reena Baba Saheb Kangale on Thursday told media persons that in 11 of the 70 seats the polling will be held from morning 7 till 3 pm while in the remaining the timing would be 8 am to 5 pm.
“There are 109 vulnerable, 1670 critical (hypersensitive) (who have) been identified in both the phases for which adequate central armed police force/ webcasting/ videography and micro-observers have been ensured.
“A total of 75332 polling staff along with 14940 reserve have already reached their respective polling stations to conduct peaceful and impartial elections on Friday,” Kangale said.
The Congress, striving to retain power in Chhattisgarh, is banking on the welfare measures the party has implemented for farmers, women, youths besides the farm loan write-off and a promise to conduct a caste-based census in the state.
The BJP, seen in its aggressive mode with redesigned election action plans, has pledged to put up a tough fight for the Congress to regain the lost ground. The saffron party, which seems much dependent on the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the strategy devised by home minister Amit Shah to turn the tide in its favour, has been vociferously targeting the Bhupesh Baghel government on alleged scams and unfulfilled promises of Congress government.
Chhattisgarh has so far not seen any impact of third front or regional parties. If the political experts are to be believed, the parties like Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), regional outfit Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) floated by first CM late Ajit Jogi, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Hamar Raj party may affect the results in some of the seats by affecting the victory margins but that may not be much significant.