Chhattisgarh: Voting to conclude on May 7 with seven seats going to polls; 168 candidates in fray
   Date :06-May-2024
Raipur, May 6 (PTI)
Amid heightened security with the deployment of 202 companies of Central forces and more than 60,000 personnel of police force and District Reserve Guard, the remaining seven Lok Sabha seats in Chhattisgarh will vote on Tuesday in the third phase with 168 candidates in the fray.
The main contest lies between the BJP, which had won 10 out of 11 seats in the state in the 2004, 2009 and 2014 general elections. In 2019, the BJP bagged nine constituencies and Congress 2.
A total of 1,39,01,285 voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in seven seats, including the high-profile Raipur where state minister and BJP leader Brijmohan Agrawal is facing off against former MLA Vikas Upadhyay of Congress.
In Korba seat, the BJP has fielded its influential woman leader and former MP Saroj Pandey against Congress' sitting MP Jyotsana Mahant, wife of the incumbent leader of the opposition Charandas Mahant.
Polling will be held between 7 am to 6 pm.
"All the preparations have been completed for conducting polling in Raipur, Durg, Bilaspur, Korba, Janjgir-Champa (Scheduled Caste reserved), Surguja (Scheduled Tribe reserved) and Raigarh (ST) seats in the third phase on May 7," state Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Reena Babasaheb Kangale said in a press conference on Monday.
A total of 168 candidates, including 26 women, are in the fray. 1,39,01,285 voters, including 69,33,121 men, 69,67,544 women and 620 members of the third gender, are eligible to cast the vote, she said.
A security blanket of around 202 companies of Central forces and more than 60,000 personnel of the district police force and District Reserve Guard have been thrown around the seven constituencies, the chief electoral officer said.
At 38, Raipur has the maximum number of contestants, followed by 37 in Bilaspur, 27 in Korba, 25 in Durg, 18 in Janjgir-Champa, 13 in Raigarh, and 10 in Surguja.
The number of service voters and divyang voters is 11,271 and 1,29,481, respectively. 3,98,416 voters are in the age group of 18 to 19 years, 61,715 are above 85 years, and 2,174 are above 100 years, the CEO said.
Notably, 25 polling booths have been categorised as vulnerable and 1072 as critical, Kangale added.
A total of 15,701 polling booths have been set up across the seven constituencies and 2,809 of them will be 'Sangwari' booths (managed by women personnel), 306 'adarsh' booths, 58 others will be managed by 'diyangjan' and 235 by youths, she said.
All polling booths in Raipur City North assembly constituency under the Raipur Lok Sabha constituency will be managed by women polling personnel, Kangale said.
283 polling booths have been set up in those areas where there is no network coverage, she said.
In the Korba Lok Sabha seat, Kheradan polling booth has been set up for 5 voters, Kato polling booth for 12 voters and Revda polling booth for 23 voters in remote areas under the Bharatpur-Sonhat assembly constituency, the CEO said.
Altogether, 77,592 polling personnel have been deployed for the third phase of polling, she added.
Of the total 11 Lok Sabha constituencies, Naxal-affected Bastar (ST) seat voted on April 19, and Rajanandgaon, Kanker (ST) and Mahasamund in the second phase on April 26.
Bastar seat recorded a turnout of 68,29 per cent, Rajnandgaon 77.42 per cent, Mahasamund 75.02 per cent and Mahasamund 76,23 per cent.
The binary politics of Chhattisgarh is dominated by Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress.
Among the seven constituencies which will vote in the third phase, Congress has fielded a fresh face in Rajendra Sahu from Durg against sitting BJP MP Vijay Baghel.
Bilaspur constituency will see a battle between incumbent MLA Devendra Yadav of Congress and former MLA Tokhan Sahu of BJP.
In Janjgir-Champa, the lone seat reserved for Scheduled Caste candidates, former state minister Shivkumar Dahariya of Congress will take on BJP nominee Kamlesh Jangde.
Surguja seat will see a contest between BJP's Chintamani Maharaj, who defected from the Congress before the last assembly polls, and Congress' Shashi Singh, a fresh face.
BJP's Radheshyam Rathiya and Congress' Dr Menka Devi Singh, who belongs to the erstwhile royal family of Sarangarh, will square off against each other in the tribal-dominated Raigarh seat.
A high-decibel campaign for the third phase saw acrimonious exchanges between the main rivals BJP and Congress over issues like corruption, reservation, and Naxalism. The saffron party has accused the Congress of building a false narrative around changing the Constitution.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president JP Nadda, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath addressed rallies for the party candidates, while for the Congress, party president Mallikarjun Kharge, and senior leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra led the campaigning.
Modi addressed two rallies wherein he targeted Congress over Sam Pitroda's remarks on inheritance tax, its leaders skipping the consecration ceremony of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, terrorism and Naxalism.
Kharge, Rahul, and Priyanka addressed one rally each and mainly spoke about social justice and the "Nyay" guarantees of Congress.