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Chhattisgarh Assembly Polls: BJP Yet To Taste Victory In 9 Assembly Seats Since Formation Of State

Of these nine seats, Sitapur, Pali-Tanakhar, Marwahi, Mohla-Manpur and Konta are reserved for the Scheduled Tribe category, while the remaining four – Kharsia, Korba, Kota and Jaijaipur – are general constituencies.

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The BJP has governed Chhattisgarh for 15 years but it has never been able to register a win in a cluster of nine constituencies ever since the state was formed in 2000. Hoping to buck the trend, the party has roped in new faces for six of these seats this time. 

Chhattisgarh will vote in two phases on November 7 and 17.

Of these nine seats, Sitapur, Pali-Tanakhar, Marwahi, Mohla-Manpur and Konta are reserved for the Scheduled Tribe category, while the remaining four – Kharsia, Korba, Kota and Jaijaipur – are general constituencies.

After Chhattisgarh was carved out of Madhya Pradesh, the BJP won three consecutive assembly elections in the state in 2003, 2008 and 2013, bagging 50, 50 and 49 seats, respectively. In 2018, the Congress stopped the march of the Raman Singh government by winning 68 seats in the 90-member assembly. BJP's tally plunged to 15.

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“BJP has given special focus on the selection of candidates for those seats it has never won. All candidates have been campaigning in their respective areas with full enthusiasm and receiving huge support from the people”, BJP MP and convener of the party’s election campaign committee Santosh Pandey told PTI on Friday.

State’s Industry minister Kawasi Lakhma, an influential Congress tribal leader from Bastar region and five-term MLA, has remained unbeaten since 1998 in the Naxal-hit Konta seat.

BJP has fielded a fresh face Soyam Mukka, a former activist of the anti-Maoist civil militia Salwa Judum which was disbanded in 2011. 

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This seat has mostly seen a triangular contest between Congress, BJP and Communist Party of India (CPI). In the 2018 assembly polls, Lakhma bagged 31,933 votes while BJP’s Dhaniram Barse and CPI's Manish Kunjam polled 25,224 votes and 24,549 votes, respectively.

Amarjeet Bhagat, another influential tribal leader of Congress from the Surguja division and a minister in the Bhupesh Baghel government, has been winning from the Sitapur constituency since the formation of the state.

BJP has fielded Ram Kumar Toppo (33), who recently resigned from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and joined the saffron party, from this Sitapur. 

Talking to PTI over the phone, Toppo said the people of Sitapur “compelled” him to contest the polls and he does not see Bhagat as a challenge.

“I had never imagined becoming a politician. I received around 15,000 letters from the people of Sitapur seeking my help on various issues and asking me to contest elections. One of the letters was written in blood by a victim of sexual exploitation. I could not ignore them,” he said.

The ex-CRPF personnel said he doesn't see the Congress candidate as a challenge as it is the "people of Sitapur, not me, who are contesting the elections against him (Bhagat)".

Similarly, another minister in the Congress government, Umesh Patel, has been seeking his third straight term from Kharsia seat. Not only since the formation of the state, but this constituency has been a Congress bastion since 1977 when it came into existence as part of Madhya Pradesh.

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Umesh Patel’s father Nand Kumar Patel, then state Congress chief who was killed in the Jhiram valley Naxal attack in Bastar in 2013, had been elected from this seat five times.

BJP has fielded a new face, Mahesh Sahu, from Kharsia.

Marwahi and Kota seats also had been the bastion of Congress before the two constituencies were won by Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) in 2018.

After the formation of Chhattisgarh in 2000, Jogi, who became the first chief minister of the Congress government, won the bypoll from Marwahi in 2001. He later won this seat as a Congress nominee in 2003 and 2008. 

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In 2013, his son Amit Jogi successfully contested from Marwahi and in 2018, Ajit Jogi entered the fray from here on a ticket of his newly floated outfit JCC (J) and won.

However, Congress wrested the constituency in the bypoll necessitated by Ajit Jogi’s death in 2020.

Ajit Jogi’s wife Renu Jogi won the bypoll to Kota seat in 2006 held after the death of Congress legislator Rajendra Prasad Shukla. She subsequently won the seat in 2008 and 2013 elections and the fourth time as JCC (J) nominee in 2018.

BJP has fielded new faces Prabal Pratap Singh Judev and Pranav Kumar Marpachchi from Kota and Marwahi seats respectively.

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Judev, a former vice president of state Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, is the son of BJP stalwart late Singh Judev, while Marpachchi has served in the Indian Army.

The Congress has fielded its incumbent MLA KK Dhruv from Marwahi and chairman of Chhattisgarh Tourism Board Atal Shrivastava from Kota.

Four other seats – Korba, Pali-Tanakhar, Jaijaipur and Mohla-Manpur – where BJP is yet to open its account came into existence after delimitation in 2008.

An interesting fight is on the card in Pali-Tanakhar seat where the BJP has fielded Ram Dayal Uike, who quit the Congress ahead of the 2018 assembly polls and returned to the BJP.

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Uike who was elected as a BJP MLA from the Marwahi seat in 1998, joined the Congress and vacated his seat to pave the way for the entry of Ajit Jogi into the assembly after the latter was sworn in as the first chief minister of Chhattisgarh.

As a Congress candidate, Uike won from Tanakhar (which became Pali-Tanakhar after delimitation) in 2003 and subsequently Pali-Tanakhar in 2008 and 2013.

He returned to the BJP in 2018 and contested from Pali-Tanakhar but lost to the Congress nominee. Uike has been renominated by the BJP from here where the Congress has denied the ticket to its sitting MLA Mohit Ram and instead fielded a woman candidate – Duleshwari Sidar. 

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Another minister in the Baghel government, Jai Singh Agrawal, has remained unbeaten since 2008 in Korba constituency. The BJP has fielded its former MLA Lakhanlal Dewangan from Korba against Congress’ Agrawal.

Jaijaipur (Janjgir-Champa) is currently held by two-time Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLA Keshav Chandra. The Congress has fielded its district Youth Congress chief Baleshwar Sahu and BJP its district unit chief Krishnakant Chandra.

In the Mohla-Manpur seat, the Congress has fielded incumbent MLA Indrashah Mandavi, while former MLA Sanjeev Shah is the BJP pick.

Like BJP, Congress is yet to secure victory on three seats – Raipur City South, Vaishali Nagar and Beltara – that came into existence after delimitation in 2008, following the formation of the state.

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 Raipur City South is an urban constituency held by BJP’s influential leader and former minister Brijmohan Agrawal, a seven-term MLA. Congress has fielded its former MLA and Mahant of Raipur-based popular Dudhadhari Math Mahant Ram Sundar Das against Agrawal.

 Vaishali Nagar seat is lying vacant after the death of BJP MLA Vidyaratan Bhasin. Both BJP and Congress have put up fresh faces – Rikesh Sen and Mukesh Chandrakar, respectively.

In Beltara, BJP denied a ticket to its sitting MLA Rajnish Singh and brought in a new face, Sushant Shukla, while Vijay Kesarwani, president of Congress Bilaspur rural unit, is the ruling party’s nominee.

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Head of state Congress communication wing, Sushil Anand Shukla, claimed his party will successfully breach some of the so-called BJP bastions this time.

The opposition party will even struggle to get the number of seats it had won last time, Shukla said.

The Congress registered a landslide victory in the 2018 polls winning 68 seats, and comfortably formed the government. The BJP was reduced to 15 seats, while the JCC (J) and the BSP bagged 5 and 2 seats, respectively. The current strength of the Congress is 71.

The Congress has set a target of winning 75 seats this time, according to party leaders.

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