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  India   All India  12 Nov 2018  Big ‘semi-final’ before 2019 begins from Chhattisgarh today

Big ‘semi-final’ before 2019 begins from Chhattisgarh today

Published : Nov 12, 2018, 12:33 am IST
Updated : Nov 12, 2018, 5:49 am IST

Voting for first phase of Chhattisgarh Assembly poll on 18 seats today; 1 lakh securitymen deployed in 8 Naxal-hit districts.

Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh is among the prominent candidates whose fate would be sealed in EVMs during the first phase of voting. (Photo: PTI)
 Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh is among the prominent candidates whose fate would be sealed in EVMs during the first phase of voting. (Photo: PTI)

Raipur/New Delhi: The big semi-final before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections begins with the first phase of Chhattisgarh Assembly polls in 18 seats on Monday, setting up direct contests between the BJP and the Congress in the Hindi heartland across three states which, along with Telangana and Mizoram, promise to reflect the voters’ mood and their intentions whether they would give Prime Minister Narendra Modi a second term in May next year.

Apart from Chhattisgarh, the high-stakes semi-final will unfold in Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Telangana for 90, 230, 40, 200 and 119 seats respectively till December 7. Results for all five states would be announced on December 11, making clear the picture on how major players such as the BJP, the Congress and the BSP are positioned for alliances to fight the big final in 2019.

 

As the BJP looks to retain power in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the Congress believes that the party is on the verge of wresting power from Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan while in the other four states there is stiff competition.

On Monday, Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh is among the prominent candidates whose fate would be sealed in EVMs during the first phase of voting. Mr Singh is contesting from Rajnandgaon where he defeated the Congress’ Alka Uday Mudliyar in 2013 by a margin of 35,000 votes.

One lakh security personnel have been deployed in eight Naxal-hit districts for the first phase of polls which are being held amid a threat from Maoists who have called for a boycott of the democratic exercise. The second phase of polling for 72 seats in Chhattisgarh will be held on November 20.

 

A total of 190 candidates are vying for 18 seats in the first phase of election in Chhattisgarh. Of the 18 seats, Congress had won 12 while the BJP bagged six in 2013.

On the eve of the first phase polling, former chief minister Ajit Jogi-led alliance received a setback when a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate joined the Congress. BSP leader Chhabilal Ratre, who had filed nomination for Saraipalli (SC) constituency in east district of Mahasamund, joined the Congress. Voting for the seat is scheduled in the second phase.

For the first phase polling, Bastar division, comprising of seven districts, has literally been turned into a fortress. Twelve Assembly constituencies of the first phase polling are located in this division and six in neighbouring Rajnandgaon district.

 

“As many as 650 companies of central paramilitary forces, including CRPF, ITBP, and BSF, besides 65,000 policemen have been deployed in Bastar to ensure smooth polling,” said special director general of police, Naxal operation, D.M. Awasthi.

Apart from giving a call for boycotting elections, Naxals have resorted to violence in different parts of Bastar in the last fortnight to create fear among tribals and keep them indoors on the polling day. Five civilians, including a journalist, and two security personnel have died in the recent spurt in Naxal strikes.

There are intelligence inputs that Maoists may strike on the voting day. The rebels are reported to have mined routes leading to sensitive polling booths with improvised explosive devices (IEDs). In the past 15 days, more than 300 IEDs have been recovered on these routes and defused.

 

As many as 12 helicopters have been deployed to take polling parties and security personnel to polling booths set up in remote areas in the region. Voters in many areas are going to caste a vote for the first time in 20 years.

All the 437 polling booths in Sukma and Bijapur districts have been declared as “sensitive”. Bijapur collector K.B. Kunjam said that about 80 polling parties were airlifted and 76 relocated to a safer position, but there were still 40-odd booths that were extremely risky.

Drones have been deployed in sensitive areas to track movements of Naxals as they might target polling personnel on way to the booths, an official said.

 

Police has been asked to maintain a strict vigil on the borders with Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.

Due to the Naxal threat, polling in 10 constituencies — Mohla-Manpur, Antagarh, Bhanupratappur, Kanker, Keshkal, Kondagaon, Narayanpur, Dantewada, Bijapur and Konta — will start at 7 am and end at 3 pm.

In the other eight seats — Khairgarh, Dongargarh, Rajnandgaon, Dongargaon, Khujji, Bastar, Jagdalpur and Chitrakot the polling time will be 8 am to 5 pm.

In Rajasthan, the Congress is hoping to benefit from a trend that no party lasted more than a term in the last quarter century with the electorate each time voting the incumbent government out.

 

There is strong anti-incumbency against the Raje-led BJP government and a wave of anger among the backward castes and the minorities, claimed a party leader.

While the BJP in the state has been losing its leaders, the Congress has been effectively gaining strength. Manvendra Singh, son of veteran BJP leader Jaswant Singh, who served in the Vajpayee Cabinet, joined the Congress recently.

The BJP was looking to gain from the perceived friction between Congress big guns — former chief minister Ashok Gehlot and state unit chief Sachin Pilot — but till now their so-called differences have been kept under wraps and there is little to suggest that the acrimony has reached levels where there may be strong under-cutting.

 

Tags: chhattisgarh assembly polls, narendra modi
Location: India, Chhatisgarh, Raipur