Raipur: Eyeing a straight fourth term in poll-bound Mizoram, the BJP has set a target of winning 65 plus seats in the 90-member Assembly. On the other hand, the Congress is seeking to end its 15-year exile from power in the tribal-dominated state.
The Congress, out of power in Chhattisgarh since 2003, is exploiting the name of BJP’s iconic leader and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to take on Chief Minister Raman Singh on his home turf Rajnandgaon.
Raman Singh, the longest serving Chief Minister of the BJP, is locked in a direct fight with his former mentor Karuna Shukla, niece of the late Vajpayee. The 68-year-old Shukla, a former BJP Lok Sabha MP, ended her 32-year-long association with the BJP in 2014 and joined the Congress.
The down-to-earth Shukla is known to have a clean image and she had rejected the BJP’s repeated efforts in the recent past to shed her anger against the saffron party. The Congress cleverly fielded her against the Bharatiya Janata Party’s most popular face in Chhattisgarh, Raman Singh, to deny him a walkover.
The Congress camp is also encouraged by the huge turnout of locals at a roadshow carried out by Congress President Rahul Gandhi on November 9 in Rajnandgaon town with Shukla and state Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel.
Sensing that there is a fight on Raman Singh’s home turf, BJP President Amit Shah staged a road show in Rajnandgaon town hours before campaigning ended on November 11.
The BJP show of strength was dubbed one of the biggest election road shows in Chhattisgarh and Shah advised voters to ensure Raman Singh wins by not less than 70,000 votes difference.
Chhattisgarh has 90 Assembly seats. In the first phase, polling was held for 18 seats — 12 in Bastar and six in Rajnandgaon district. The second and final phase of polling in the mineral-rich state was held on November 20.