New Delhi: The big semi-final before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections begins with the first phase of Chhattisgarh Assembly polls in 18 seats on Monday, setting up direct contests between the BJP and the Congress in Hindi heartland across three states which, along with Telangana and Mizoram, promise to reflect the voters’ mood and their intentions whether they would give Prime Minister Narendra Modi a second term in the top office in May next year.
Apart from Chhattisgarh, the high-stakes semi-final will unfold in MP, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Telangana for 90, 230, 40, 200 and 119 seats respectively till December 7. Results for all five states would be announced on December 11, making clear the picture on how major players such as the BJP, the Congress and the BSP are positioned for alliances to fight the big final in 2019.
As the BJP looks to retain power in Chhattisgarh, MP and Rajasthan, the Congress believes that the party is on the verge of wresting power from Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan while in the other four states there is stiff competition.
On Monday, Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh is among the prominent candidates whose fate would be sealed in EVMs during the first phase of voting. Mr Singh is contesting from Rajnandgaon where he defeated Congress’ Alka Uday Mudliyar in 2013 by a margin of 35,000 votes.
One lakh security personnel have been deployed in eight Naxal-hit districts for the first phase of polls which are being held amid a threat from Maoists who have called for a boycott of the democratic exercise. The second phase of polling on 72 seats in Chhattisgarh will be held on November 20.
A total of 190 candidates are vying for 18 seats in the first phase of election in Chhattisgarh. Of the 18 seats, Congress had won 12 while the BJP bagged 6 in 2013.
On the eve of the first phase polling, former chief minister Ajit Jogi-led alliance received a setback when a BSP candidate joined the Congress. BSP leader Chhabilal Ratre, who had filed nomination for Saraipalli constituency, joined the Congress. Voting on the seat is scheduled under the second phase.
For the first phase polling, Bastar division, comprising of seven districts, has literally been turned into a fortress. Twelve Assembly constituencies of the first phase polling are located in this division and six in neighbouring Rajnandgaon district.