Seventy-two seats will go to polls in the final phase of the Chhattisgarh Assembly elections on Tuesday. Eighteen seats in Bastar and Rajnandgaon districts saw polling in the first phase on November 12, with results for all the 90 seats to be declared on December 11, along with four other states.
Chhattisgarh Chief Election Officer Subrat Sahu told reporters on Monday evening that there were just over 1.54 crore voters across the 72 seats, with 77.53 lakh male, 76.46 lakh female and 877 transgender voters. Sahu said two of the total 19,336 booths will see polling between 7 am and 3 pm while the rest will follow the usual time of 8 am to 5 pm.
The ruling BJP holds 43 of the 72 seats, with the party sweeping several areas in the Chhattisgarh plains in the 2013 elections. Five years later, the party is banking on the work it has done over 15 years, with its leaders also counting on the Ajit Jogi-BSP coalition to cut into any anti-incumbency votes, especially in the Bilaspur-Janjgir region. In billboards now put up across Chhattisgarh, the party has asked voters to recall the state’s condition in 2003 when the Raman Singh government took over.
However, the Congress is confident of overturning deficits in the plains with farmer anger against the BJP, which has not been able to fulfil its promise of Rs 2,100 support price for paddy and Rs 300 bonus over the last five years.
Many in the Congress believe that its manifesto will affect voters, with the promise of a loan waiver within 10 days of coming to power, Rs 2,500 support price for paddy, and payment of the bonus.
Over the last week, much of the BJP’s emphasis during its campaign has been an attempt to water down expectations from the Congress, citing examples from Karnataka on how the Congress is not trustworthy. There is also a sense on the ground that people want change after 15 years, and with only a 0.7 per cent difference between the BJP and Congress in the last election, many in the state believe that this is the best chance for the Congress so far to form the government.
The third element, for the first time in a bipolar state, is the Jogi-BSP coalition that has put up candidates who are either in a serious race or can upset calculations of the Congress and BJP.
Meanwhile, the Opposition protested in front of the EC office in Raipur, claiming that the BJP government was using underhand methods to win a losing battle, alleging that a fake letter has been circulated on a Congress letterhead adding conditions to the promises made to farmers, that alcohol and money was being distributed, and that central leaders of the BJP continued to stay in Chhattisgarh even 48 hours before polling. On the question of the fake letter, the EC said that a case had been registered. It said while all central leaders had been asked to leave, the state in-charge of a party has to inform the EC but can stay there.