Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh to vote today in high-stakes battle
In Chhattisgarh, the second phase of polling will decide the fate of chief minister Bhupesh Baghel and deputy CM T S Singhdeo.
Over 72 million people across the heartland states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh will vote for 230 assembly seats in the former and 70 seats in the latter on Friday, sealing the fate of 3,491 candidates in polls that will have significant national ramifications.
This round of assembly elections began on November 7 with 20 seats in Chhattisgarh and all of Mizoram going to the polls. The electoral fight is largely between the Congress and the BJP in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.
The voting commenced at 7am on Friday in 64,523 polling booths across Madhya Pradesh. It will end in the Maoism-affected districts of Balaghat, Dindori and Mandla by 3 pm and everywhere else by 6 pm. The state’s chief electoral officer, Anupam Rajan, will monitor voting at every booth sitting in his office in Bhopal, officials said.
Rajan said the election commission has arranged for a helicopter and an air ambulance at Gondia, adjacent to Balaghat. “More than 38,000 polling stations will be monitored through CCTV and web casting. In 464 polling stations located in black zones where there is zero internet and telecommunication connectivity, runners have been deployed. The runners will come to the connectivity zone every two hours to share the information related to voting,” he said.
Around 200,000 security personnel have been deployed. He said that there are 2,533 candidates in the fray. While the Congress and the BJP have fielded candidates in all 230 seats, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is contesting on 183 seats, Samajwadi Party on 71 and Aam Aadmi Party on 66.
On Thursday, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan interacted with women in Bhopal and said that the love of his sisters will see him through. “I know my sisters will support me,” the CM said.
Other BJP leaders, including Union ministers Prahlad Patel, Faggan Singh Kulaste, state cabinet minister Narottam Mishra, Gopal Bhargava and Bhupendra Singh, visited houses of their supporters.
The Congress – which is looking to displace the BJP — issued an affidavit from all its 230 candidates pledging to fulfil all poll guarantees. “I will protect the soil of Madhya Pradesh and will remain committed to a corruption-free progressive Madhya Pradesh till the last drop of my blood,” said the affidavit with pictures of Rahul Gandhi, Mallikarjun Kharge and Kamal Nath.
In Chhattisgarh, the second phase of polling will decide the fate of chief minister Bhupesh Baghel, deputy CM TS Singhdeo, eight ministers of the state cabinet and four members of Parliament.
The Congress is looking to retain its government in the state. Of the 70 assembly seats going to the polls on Friday, 44 are general, 17 are reserved for Scheduled Tribes and nine for Scheduled Castes. Poll officials said 958 candidates are contesting across 70 seats and 22 districts.
The Congress and the BJP are fighting all seats. There are 44 candidates from the AAP, 62 from Janata Congress Chhattisgarh and 33 from the Hamar Raj Party. The Bahujan Samaj Party and Gondwana Gantantra Party are contesting in alliance and have fielded 43 and 26 candidates, respectively.
The time of polling in all 70 constituencies is from 8am to 5pm, except nine booths in the Maoism-affected Bindranawagarh seat in Rajim district, where voting will be held from 7am to 3pm.
Baghel is contesting from his traditional Patan seat where the BJP has fielded his distant nephew and party MP, Vijay Baghel. The third important candidate in the constituency is Amit Jogi, Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) state chief and son of former CM Ajit Jogi.
The BJP’s poll campaign was spearheaded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who targeted Baghel over corruption, particularly the alleged Mahadev betting app scam and recruitment controversy. Congress based its campaign on a slew of welfare schemes rolled out by the Baghel government for farmers, women, tribals and Dalits, and accused the Centre of handing over resources to some industrialists.
“Both the national parties focused on wooing the farmers, women and young voters through their respective manifestos. The BJP alleged the Congress committed various scams and the Congress accused the BJP of using central agencies,” said Harsh Dubey, a political analyst.
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