Rajnandgaon/ Raipur (CG), Oct 29 (PTI) The campaigning for the next month’s assembly elections in Chhattisgarh picked up Monday with four union ministers and a former chief minister canvassing for the ruling BJP in various parts of the state.

Union Law Minister Ravishankar Prasad and his cabinet colleagues Smriti Irani, Uma Bharti, Ramkripal Yadav, and former Jharkhand chief minister Arjun Munda addressed public meetings in different constituencies that will go to polls during the first phase on November 12.

A total of 18 constituencies across eight naxal-affected districts will go to polls in the first phase.

The second phase of polling will be held on November 20.

Addressing a gathering in Rajnandgaon, Smriti Irani equated Chhattisgarh elections with epic Mahabharata and said one should not be reluctant to fight against his own people if they are against justice and truth.

“This election is a battle between ‘dharma’ (right) and ‘adharma’ (wrong). Lord Shri Krishna had taught in Geeta that one should not be reluctant to fight against own people if they were against ‘dharma’ and justice in a battle,” the Textile Minister said without naming anyone.

The Congress has fielded Karuna Shukla, the niece of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee from Rajnandgaon seat, against incumbent MLA and chief minister Raman Singh.

Shukla had quit the Bhartiya Janata Party in 2013 and joined the Congress next year ahead of Lok Sabha polls.

Irani said Chhattisgarh was oncerecognisedas a ‘bimaru’ (backward) state, but is now counted among developed states in the country under leadership of Raman Singh who is at the helm since the last 15 years.

She appealed to people to vote for Singh and bring BJP to power for the fourth consecutive term so that the state can attain more growth.

Irani addressed another rally in Dongargaon constituency where Rajnandgaon Municipal Corporation Mayor Madhusudan Yadav is a BJP contestant.

Union Minister for Drinking Water and Sanitation Uma Bharti addressed a rally in Khairagarh constituency of Rajnandgaon district, where she targetted Congress chief Rahul Gandhi over his visits to temples.

“The Congress looks for temples only when election approaches,” Bharti said.

Earlier in the day, Gandhi performed a ‘puja’ at the famous Mahakaledhwar temple in Ujjain in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh which is going to polls on November 28.

Bharti said Chhattisgarh is witnessing an overall development under Raman Singh government, “which has created a wave of development”.

Bharti campaigned for BJP’s Komal Janghel who is pitted against sitting MLA Girwar Janghel of Congress from Khairagarh seat.

Ravishankar Prasad addressed public meetingsin Mohla-Manpur and Ambagarh Chowki areas of Rajnandgaon district.

Union Minister of State for Rural Development Ramkripal Yadav participated in electioneering at Sarona village in Kanker, at Pakhanjore town in Antagarh and in Bhanupratappur.

Arjun Munda addressed rallies in Narayanpur, Konta, Bastar and Kondagaon constituencies.

Of the 18 seats going to polls in the first phase, 12 are reserved for Scheduled Tribe (ST) and one for Scheduled Caste (SC) category.

The stakes are very high for ruling BJP in these 18 seats, as the party had lost 12 of them in the 2013 polls.

The keenly-watched constituency will be Rajnandgaon where a high-profile battle is on the cards between the chief minister and Karuna Shukla.

The BJP has once again reposed its faith in old faces and fielded two incumbent ministers Mahesh Gagda (Bijapur) and Kedar Kashyap (Narayanpur) in the elections.

The party has also given tickets to sitting MLAs- Santosh Bafna (Jagdalpur), Sarojani Banjare (Dongargarh) and also to Lata Usendi (Kondgaon), Subhau Kashyap (Bastar), Komal Janghel (Khairagarh), Bhima Mandavi (Dantewada) and Dhaniram Barse (Konta)–who all had lost the 2013 elections.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.