By Tikeshwar Patel
Raipur, Nov 17 (PTI) Bilaspur division with 24 Assembly seats, the highest among the five divisions in poll-bound Chhattisgarh, is expected to play a crucial role in deciding the winner.
Bilaspur division, located in the centre of the state, comprises five districts -- Bilaspur, Mungeli, Korba, Janjgir-Champa and Raigarh.
While the first phase of polls in Chhattisgarh for 18 seats took place on November 12, the second phase for the remaining 72 constituencies will be held on November 20.
In the 2013 polls, the 24 seats in the five districts of Bilaspur division saw a neck-to-neck contest with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) winning 12, the Congress 11 and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) winning one.
The BSP, which won Jaijaipur seat in the division, however, managed to come second in two constituencies and third in seven.
With the BSP tying up with former chief minister Ajit Jogi's Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J), a three-way fight between the BJP, Congress and the Jogi-led alliance is very much on the cards.
While the BSP is contesting 10 of the 24 seats in Bilaspur division, the JCC(J) has fielded candidates on the rest.
"People are fed up with the politics of the BJP and the Congress in the state and this time they are considering our alliance as an option to bring change," BSP's state chief Omprakash Batchpayi told PTI.
"The alliance is in a good position in Bilaspur division and will win more than 12 segments there," he said confidently.
The Mayawati-led party had got 4.27 per cent of votes in the 2013 Assembly polls, a decrease from the 6.11 per cent it garnered in the 2008 polls.
On the other hand, Jogi's new outfit is seeking political space in the state, and Bilaspur region, with a sizable presence of people from the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities, is expected to help the new party.
Of the 24 seats, five are reserved for the Scheduled Tribe (ST) category and four for the Scheduled Caste (SC).
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and BSP supremo Mayawati have campaigned in the region, a reflection of its significance.
The opposition Congress, which was trying to forge an alliance with the BSP, believes the Jogi-led alliance will not affect its chances.
State Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel said, "Jogi is going to lose the election from Marwahi. There is no question of the alliance affecting the prospects of the Congress. We are confident of improving our tally and win more seats in this division."
Ajit Jogi is contesting from Marwahi segment where the BJP and the Congress have fielded new faces Archana Porte and Gulab Singh respectively.
The Congress has fielded 10 new faces in this division this time.
Marwahi, Kota, Akaltara, Jaijaipur, Pamgarh, Lormi, Bilha, Chandrapur, Sarangarh and Shakti constituencies are among keenly watched seats from Bilaspur division during the second phase of voting on November 20.
The Kota seat will see a three-cornered contest between incumbent MLA Renu Jogi (JCC-J), Vibhor Singh of the Congress and BJP's Kashi Sahu.
Similary, in Akaltara seat, Jogi's daughter-in-law Richa Jogi (BSP) is likely to give a tough fight to Saurabh Singh (BJP) and incumbent MLA Chunnilal Sahu (Congress).
In Lormi Seat, former MLA Dharmjeet Singh (JCC-C) has been pitted against incumbent MLA and BJP candidate Tokhan Sahu and Congress's Shatrughan Chandrakar.
The lone BSP MLA Keshav Chandra, who has been renominated from Jaijaipur, is pitted against BJP's Kailash Sahu and Congress' Anil Chandra.
Bilaspur is a prominent seat where a close contest is expected between state minister Amar Agrawal of BJP and Congress' Shailesh Pandey.
Eyeing a fourth consecutive term, the ruling BJP believes the Mayawati-Jogi alliance would impact the Congress' prospects in the election.
"Jogi's party would affect Congress votes, not that of the BJP in this election. We have set a target of winning 65 seats in Chhattisgarh, of which, more than 15 will be from Bilaspur division," BJP state spokesperson Sanjay Shrivastav said. PTI TKP BNM KJ
Disclaimer :- This story has not been edited by Outlook staff and is auto-generated from news agency feeds. Source: PTI