Raipur, Nov 10: With Naxal violence and under development never far from the public eye, the campaign for assembly elections on 18 seats concluded on Saturday in Chhattisgarh where the Bharatiya Janata Party has been in power for 15 years.
Polling personnel have started leaving for difficult and remote areas by helicopters. As Indian National Congress promised a loan waiver for farmers, other political parties went all out to mobilise votes in favour of their candidates by rallies and road shows on the last day of the campaign.
BJP national president Amit Shah organised a road show at Chief Minister Dr Raman Singh’s constituency Rajnandgaon. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi also addressed election gatherings in Charama and Kondagaon on the last day. He met party workers in Jagdalpur and various delegations.
Rajnandgaon is prestigious as Chief Minister Dr Raman Singh is contesting election on this seat for the third time. He is pitted against Congress candidate Karuna Shukla, who is the niece of late former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. School Education Minister Kedar Kashyap in Narayanpur seat and Forest Minister Mahesh Gagda in Bijapur seat are prominent candidates in the first phase of election.
Pulling out all stops:
Political parties pulled out all stops in the first phase campaign. About 24 hours before its conclusion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed an election gathering in Jagdalpur while Mr Gandhi addressed public gathering in Pakhanjore of Kanker district.The Congress president subsequently campaigned in Khairagarh of Rajnandgaon district and then addressed a public meeting at Dongargarh. Later in the day, he took out a road show in Rajnandgaon.
Shah addressed three public meetings in Kondagaon, Ataria and Khujji to canvass votes in favour of BJP candidates and took out a road show in Rajnandgaon. Dr Raman Singh, too, held a series of public meetings in favour of BJP candidates. He held meetings twice in the areas where the BJP considers itself little weak. Union Ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad, Smriti Irani, Ramkripal Yadav and former Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda also hit the campaign trail for BJP candidates.
From Congress side, besides Mr Gandhi, former Union Ministers Subodh Kant Sahay, and tribal leader Bhakt Charandas, Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Raj Babbar, ex-Union Minister Pradip Jain Aditya and Mahila Congress national president Sushmita Dev held several meetings. Also chipping in, were former Union Ministers Anand Sharma, Manish Tiwari, party’s communication wing head Randeep Singh Surjewala and Spokesman Abhishek Singhvi.
Former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi, the only star campaigner of the Janata Congress-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance, conducted hectic election visits by helicopters to lure voters while Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia campaigned in favour of Aam Aadmi Party’s CM aspirant Komal Hupendi.
In view of episodes of Naxal violence in several places of Bastar, leaders avoided visiting internal parts of the region to canvas for votes. Instead of traditional election meetings in these areas, the candidates preferred to meet people in weekly Haat-Bazaars and village choupals.
Announcement of poll boycott by Naxalites has created panic among voters, besides instilling a sense of fear in candidates in such areas.
A total 190 candidates are in the fray for the first phase of assembly elections in which a 32-lakh electorate can exercise their franchise at 4,336 polling centres. There are a total 16 lakh 21 thousand 839 women, and 89 third gender voters who will be able to exercise their franchise in the first leg of assembly polls.
Out of 4,336 polling centres, 1,190 centres on 12 seats of Bastar division have been considered as hyper sensitive. In addition, 221 polling centres in Rajnandgaon district have been considered hyper sensitive. In all, 256 polling centres are sensitive while 396 others politically sensitive.
Main opposition Congress has more at stake than BJP out of 18 seats of the first phase. Congress holds eight out of 12 seats in Bastar division and four out of six seats in Rajnandgaon. Only Khairagarh and Konta seats in this phase are expected to witness a triangular contest while the rest a direct fight between the BJP and Congress.(UNI)