The high-decibel campaign for the third phase of Lok Sabha polls in Chhattisgarh’s seven seats ended on Sunday, which saw acrimonious exchanges between the main rivals BJP and Congress over issues like corruption, poverty and farmers’ woes. The third phase of polling on April 23 will mark the completion of Lok Sabha elections in the state.
Total 123 candidates are in the fray in seven Lok Sabha seats Raipur, Durg, Bilaspur, Korba, Janjgir-Champa (SC), Surguja (ST) and Raigarh (ST) – that will go to polls in the third phase, state chief electoral officer (CEO) Subrat Sahoo said in a statement.
“The campaign for the seven seats ended at 5 pm on Sunday,” he said.
Raipur and Bilaspur seats have the maximum 25 candidates each, followed by Durg-21, Jangir-Champa – 15, Raigarh -14, Korba-13 and Surguja-10, he said.
Total 1,27,13,816 voters, including 64,16,252 men, 62,96,992 women and 572 members of third gender, are eligible to exercise their franchise in the third phase for which 15,408 polling booths have been set up.
Voting for total 11 Lok Sabha seats in the state was scheduled in three phases.
The Naxal-hit Bastar (ST) constituency went to polls in the first phase on April 11, while voting in three other seats – Rajanandgaon, Kanker (ST) and Mahasamund – was held in the second phase on April 18.
In the 2004, 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha polls held after the formation of Chhattisgarh, the BJP won 10 out of the 11 seats all the three times.
This time, the Congress, buoyed by its victory in the Assembly elections last year after a 15-year gap, is hoping to improve its tally in the state.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh campaigned for the saffron party in the third phase.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi, party leader Navjot Singh Sidhu and state chief minister Bhupesh Baghel also held rallies in support of their party candidates.
Gandhi did not campaign for the first two phases, in which Baghel mainly led the canvassing for his party.
The BJP top brass targeted the Congress over issues like poverty and national security and also attacked the Gandhi family.
The Congress highlighted benefits of its poll promise of minimum guarantee scheme, besides the farm loan waiver granted by the party government in the state after coming to power last year, and assuring a minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 2,500 to paddy cultivators.
The Congress leaders also attacked Modi over the Rafale jet deal issue and accused him of betraying people by not fulfilling his promises.
In the high-profile Durg seat, the Congress has fielded its former MLA Pratima Chandrakar, who belongs to the influential Kurmi OBC community.
Durg is the only Lok Sabha seat which the Congress won in the state in the 2014 general elections.
After the Congress’ win in the last year’s Assembly polls, its Durg MP Tamradhwaj Sahu was inducted into the state cabinet as Home minister.
The BJP has fielded its former MLA Vijay Baghel, who also belongs to the Kurmi community, in Durg.
In Raipur seat, the BJP has fielded Sunil Soni, incumbent vice president of the state unit, while denying ticket to seven-term MP Ramesh Bais.
Soni is pitted against Congress’ Pramod Dubey, the incumbent mayor of the Raipur Municipal Corporation.
In the tribal-dominated Raigarh seat, the BJP denied renomination to its MP and Union minister Vishnu Deo Sai, and fielded a fresh face – Gomtee Sai.
The Congress has pinned its hopes on sitting party MLA Laljeet Singh Rathiya.
In Surguja (ST), the BJP chose former MLA and minister Renuka Singh, who is pitted against sitting Congress legislator and prominent tribal leader Khelsai Singh.
In Korba seat, the Congress has fielded Jyotsana Mahant, wife of incumbent state Assembly speaker Charandas Mahant, while the BJP has pinned its hopes on a fresh face, Jyotinand Dubey.
In Bilaspur, the Congress has nominated Atal Shrivastav, its state unit general secretary, who is locked in a battle with BJP’s Arun Sao.
The Janjgir-Champa seat, reserved for Scheduled Caste candidates, is likely to witness a triangular fight among Congress’ Ravi Bhardwaj, BJP nominee Guharam Ajgale and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate Dauram Ratnankar.
The Mayawti-led party and its ally Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) of former chief minister Ajit Jogi have been focusing on this seat.
The BSP forged an alliance with the JCC(J) during the state Assembly elections last year.
In the 90-member Assembly, the JCC (J) won five seats while the BSP bagged two seats last year.
Jogi’s party has not fielded any candidate for the Lok Sabha polls and is supporting BSP’s nominees in all seats of the state.