By Mohammed Atherulla Shariff
November 2: Chhattisgarh, “thirty-six forts” of the formerly Haihaya dynasty of Ratanpur, is going to poll on 7th November in the first phase for the State’s fifth assembly. Coincidentally, it is the 23rd year of its formation (1st November 2000).
Twenty out of the 90 total constituencies will cast the votes in the first phase. Predominantly the area is tribal belt; hence 12 seats are reserved for Scheduled Tribes and one for Scheduled Castes. Only seven are left for general constituencies. Major players are, of course, the Indian National Congress and the Bhartiya Janata Party. Though the BJP had formed the government successively three terms from 2003 to 2013 but lost to the INC in the last assembly election held in 2018. The Congress won with thumping majority, 68 seats.
There are other smaller players like the Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J), the Bahujan Samaj Party, Aam Aadmi Party, Communist Party of India and Samajwadi Party too. In the last elections JCC (J) secured 5 seats and 7.8% of the votes and BSP won 2 seats and 3.9% votes.
All the parties have announced their candidates for all the 90 seats and there is only one Muslim candidate from Congress, Mohammed Akbar from Kawardha, which is going to poll in the first phase. Akbar was the lone Muslim member in earlier assemblies too. A businessman from Raipur, the only Muslim concentrated district, Akbar has good track record of leadership. He was students’ leader while doing his graduation in commerce and Youth Congress leader later. If he succeeds this time too, it will be his fifth entry into the assembly.
With 2 SC and one ST reserved seats and 10 general category constituencies in Raipur, it is the largest district of Chhattisgarh. There is substantial presence of Muslim voters in the district but political presence of the community is proportionately dismal.
In the last assembly elections, Congress won 5 out of 7 general category constituencies, which are going to poll in the first phase. The BJP and the JCC (J) got one each. Of the 12 ST reserved constituencies, Congress won 11 seats and BJP one. The lone SC reserved constituency was also won by the Congress.
Obviously, there was neck to neck competition between Congress and BJP in almost all constituencies since the latter had held these places for three terms. In the last elections, BJP was runner up in 6 general, 11 ST reserved and the lone SC reserved constituencies.