Chhattisgarh to vote in Congress bastion

Many of the 20 seats in the first phase are Maoist hotbeds, so 60,000 security personnel have been deployed for 12 seats in Bastar. Women commandos will guard 35 booths.
Key issues

The Congress government’s welfare focus has prompted the charge from BJP that it has ignored infrastructure development in the state. The party has sought to point to the poor condition of roads and urban infrastructure while underlining its role in getting the state rid of its BIMARU tag when it was in office.

Congress and BJP have been locked in a freebie battle with both parties promising a slew of welfare measures to woo voters.Congress has said it will provide free education from ‘KG to PG’ and is also offering a farm loan waiver. The party has committed to conducting a caste census if voted back to office in the state that has a significant OBC population. Looking to corner the farm vote, BJP has promised 3,100 per quintal MSP for paddy, which is higher than what Congress has assured.

BJP has made corruption allegations its main line of attack against the Bhupesh Baghel government. Chief among those is the alleged irregularities involving the Chhattisgarh Public Service Commission. The party has accused incumbent Congress of favouring relatives and close aides in recruitments. In the run-up to the polls, BJP has also used the Mahadev online betting scam to target CM Baghel.

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Hot seats

Seeking reelection for the first time as an opposition candidate, three-time CM Raman Singh is pitted against Chhattisgarh Mineral Development Corporation chairman Girish Dewangan. Congress will be counting on the farmer-OBC card to see Dewangan through while Singh’s supporters talk of his stature and his position as the natural choice for the CM’s post if BJP wins.

Forest minister Md Akbar, the lone Muslim MLA in the 90-member state assembly, is seeking reelection from the seat that he’d wrested from the BJP by a margin of over 59,000 votes in 2018. Kawardha had witnessed a communal flare-up in 2021 and BJP has fielded Vijay Sharma, a local leader who was arrested in connection with the violence.

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Situated in a Maoist hotbed, this ST seat is headed for a tough triangular contest between commerce and industry minister Kawasi Lakhma of Cong, BJP’s Soyam Muka and CPI’s Manish Kunjam, who is contesting as an Independent after failing to obtain the CPI symbol. Lakhma is seeking reelection for the sixth time from this remote and backward region.

Chhattisgarh Congress chief and Bastar MP Deepak Baij takes on BJP’s Vinayak Goyal in this ST seat. Congress’s INDIA partners CPI and AAP are in the fray here in a six-way standoff thatalso features BSP and regional party JCC-J. A Bastar native, Baij, 42, became PCC chief just three months ago and is the youngest among Congress’s top leaders in the state.

Another Maoist hotbed, the battle here is of first-timers Chhavindra Karma of Congress and BJP’s Chaitram Atami. Chhavindra is the son of former leader of the opposition Mahendra Karma, who was killed by Maoists in 2013. He is cutting his teeth in electoral politics, contesting in place of his mother, Devati Karma. This seat, too, is set to witness a six-way standoff.

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