Chhattisgarh: The first phase of polling for the assembly elections in Chhattisgarh witnessed a high voter turnout of 70.87% till 5 p.m. on November 7, despite the threat of Naxal violence. The tribal state will see a direct contest between the ruling Congress and the opposition BJP, who have made various promises to woo the voters, especially the farmers and the OBCs.
The first phase covered 20 seats out of the total 90 in the state, mostly in the Naxal-affected Bastar division and Rajnandgaon district. A total of 5,304 polling booths were set up for the first phase, where 223 candidates, including 25 women, were in the fray. Over 40 lakh voters, including 19,93,937 male, 20,84,675 female, and 69 third-gender persons, exercised their franchise amid tight security arrangements.
The polling was marred by an IED blast triggered by Naxalites in Sukma district, which injured a commando of CoBRA, an elite unit of CRPF. Three encounters also took place between the security forces and the Naxalites near Panavar village, near Banda polling station, and near Kondagaon district headquarters. However, no casualties were reported in these incidents.
The Congress, which came to power in 2018 by winning 68 out of the 90 seats, is seeking to retain its hold on the state under the leadership of Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel. The party’s manifesto has promised loan waivers for farmers, ₹3,200 per quintal for paddy, and subsidized cooking gas cylinders for women. The party has also tried to woo the OBC voters, who comprise a significant portion of the population in the Bastar division, by announcing a 27% reservation for them in government jobs and education.
The BJP, which ruled the state for 15 years before losing to the Congress in 2018, is hoping to regain its lost ground by highlighting the alleged failures and corruption of the Baghel government. The party’s manifesto has included paddy procurement at ₹3,100 per quintal, cooking gas cylinders at ₹500 to poor families, financial assistance to married women and landless agricultural laborers, and a 10% reservation for the economically weaker sections. The party has also fielded former chief minister Raman Singh from the Rajnandgaon seat, where he is facing a tough challenge from Congress’ Bhawna Bohra.
The Aam Aadmi Party, which is contesting 57 seats, has promised free electricity, water, and education, and a corruption-free government. The BSP, which has allied with the regional Gondwana Ganatantra Party, is contesting in 53 seats, while the GGP is contesting in 37 seats. The Left Front, comprising the CPI and the CPI(M), is contesting in 19 seats.
The second phase of polls for 70 seats will take place on November 17, while the results will be announced on December 3.