A high-decibel election campaign dominated by the Naxal issue with nearly half a dozen attacks by Left wing extremists during the period came to end Saturday evening in 18 Assembly seats spread across eight Maoist-affected districts of Chhattisgarh that will go to polls in the first phase on November 12.
The BJP, which has won three consecutive elections in the state, and the Congress fielded their top leaders for the campaign, with Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, BJP national president Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath seeking to woo voters with rallies and road-shows on the last day.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a rally on Friday took on the Congress, accusing it of backing “urban Naxals” who, he said, were “remote-controlling” the Maoist insurgency in this region and ruining the lives of poor tribals.
The Congress, however, alleged that it was an attempt to hide the “failure” of the BJP government in combating Naxalism and bringing development to the state. The opposition party also promised farm loan waiver and other sops like 35 kgs of rice every month for very family at Re 1 only if it wins the election.
A total of 190 candidates, including Chief Minister Raman Singh from Rajnandgaon, are contesting in this phase. The BJP had lost 12 of these 18 seats in the last polls in 2013.
An estimated 31,79,520 voters, including 16,21,839 male, 15,57,592 female and 89 of third-gender, are eligible to vote. As many as 4,336 polling booths have been set up for this phase. While Chhattisgarh has traditionally seen a straight fight between the BJP and the Congress, this time a third front comprising Ajit Jogi’s Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J), Mayawati’s BSP and the CPI is also in the fray.
Campaignning ended at 3 pm in 10 constituencies- Mohla-Manpur, Antagarh, Bhanupratappur, Kanker, Keshkal, Kondagaon, Narayanpur, Dantewada, Bijapur and Konta, where Naxal menace is rampant, and the polling time there will be from from 7 am to 3 pm. In the rest of the constituencies- Khairgarh, Dongargarh, Rajnandgaon, Dongargaon. Khujji, Bastar, Jagdalpur and Chitrakot, the campaigning ended at 5 pm and the polling time will be from 8 am to 5pm , a statement issued by the office of Chief Electoral Officer here said.
The Naxalites have called for a boycott of polls in the state and have executed half a dozen attacks in last 15 days, three of them major ones which left 13 people dead including a cameraperson of national broadcaster Doordarshan who was covering the election campaign.
In the last Assembly polls, of the total 90 seats, the BJP had won 49 seats, Congress 39, BSP 1 and independent 1.