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DN Bureau

Voting underway for second phase of assembly polls in Chhattisgarh

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Raipur: Voting for the second phase of assembly polls in Chhattisgarh began on Friday for seventy constituencies.

The main battle in the state is between the Congress and the BJP. Prior to the voting, the state witnessed the top leaders of both parties, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Bhupesh Bahgel, holding extensive campaigns.

The BJP, which ruled the state continuously between 2003 and 2018, is seeking to replace the Congress government led by Chief Minister Bhupesh Bahgel.

The first phase of polling in the state for 20 seats was held on November 7. Both parties claimed to have done well in the first phase.

The Congress had a good strike rate in these 70 seats in the 2018 elections, having won 51 of them.

While BJP has sent a message of collective leadership with the party heavily banking on the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his campaign in the state, the Congress clearly projected Bhupesh Baghel as its chief ministerial face.

Polling parties have reached their designated polling stations and 958 candidates are in the fray in this phase.

Prominent candidates in the fray include Baghel, state Assembly Speaker Charandas Mahant, Deputy Chief Minister TS Singh Deo and BJP state president Arun Sao.

Over 18,000 polling stations have been set up in the state for voting in this phase. Out of these, 727 are 'Sangwari' booths where women polling personnel have been deployed.

Adequate security arrangements have been made to ensure peaceful and fair elections. Voting will take place from 8 am to 5 pm in the state and in some polling stations of Bindranavagarh assembly constituency, voting will be held from 7 am to 3 pm.

The Congress and BJP are engaged in a fierce fight with both parties seeking to outdo each other in terms of poll promises.

"Corruption", price rise and the price of paddy have emerged as key issues in the polls, with the BJP targeting the Congress government led by Baghel on alleged scams and the "hawala money funding" related to the Mahadev gaming app.

The BJP has targeted the Chief Minister over corruption allegations. It referred to Enforcement Directorate probe and alleged that Baghel got Rs 508 crore from Mahadev betting app promoters. The Congress rejected the allegations and accused BJP of using probe agencies to target its rivals.

The caste factor is also at play in the state that has a large population of OBCs and tribals. Both parties have made efforts to woo nearly 38 lakh farmers in the state. Scheduled Tribes comprise over 30 per cent of the state's population.

The BJP won three successive polls in the state till 2018 but lost badly in 2018. The party is now seeking a return to power with the slogan that it created the state and will make it prosperous. Caste census, loan waiver, gas cylinder subsidy, unemployment, jobs and housing for the poor are among other issues being raised in the polls.

Congress has promised paddy procurement at Rs 3,200 per quintal (20 acre per quintal), including input subsidy being given under the Rajiv Gandhi Nyay Yojna. The Bharatiya Janata Party, which released its manifesto a day before the Congress, has promised 'Krishi Unnati Scheme' under which 21 quintals of paddy per acre will be procured at Rs 3,100.

The Congress has promised free education to students, free electricity up to 200 units, cheaper LPG cylinders, and a hike in tendu leaf collection at Rs 6,000 per standard sack in place of the existing Rs 4,000.

The BJP's manifesto 'Modi ki guarantee' has several promises, including LPG cylinders at Rs 500, government jobs to one lakh youth in two years, and Rs 10,000 annual assistance to landless agricultural labourers.

The party has also assured Rs 12,000 annual financial assistance to married women. Congress is hoping to capitalize on the welfare schemes announced by its government and the "welfare record" of its government.

Party leaders see farmers as a decisive factor in the assembly elections. They said that a key reason for success in the previous assembly polls was promises to farmers, including loan waiver.

Bhupesh Baghel has been trying to counter the Hindutva thrust of BJP with initiatives like Ram Van Gaman Path. Apart from allegations related to the gaming app, the BJP is also targeting the Congress government over alleged corruption in job recruitment. BJP leaders have spoken of alleged scams in coal mining, liquor trade and even the Godhan Nyay Yojana.

The BJP has been doing well in tribal-dominated areas of the state but in 2018, Congress had quite a sway. Former Union Minister Arvind Netam has floated the 'Hamar Raj Party' and has accused both Congress and the BJP of not fulfilling the demands of tribals. Apart from the Aam Aadmi Party and the BSP, there are other smaller parties in the fray.

With Baghel seen to be wooing the farmers aggressively, the BJP also sought to capitalise on the popularity that former Chief Minister Raman Singh gained as "Chaaur wale Baba". The electorate in the state comprises over two crore voters.

The counting of votes will take place on December 3 in four other states. (ANI)

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