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Chhattisgarh Elections Phase 2: Why These 5 Seats Will Be Closely Watched

Experts opine that the BJP regained a part of its lost strength in Chhattisgarh with its communal rhetoric.

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The ruling Congress and the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are all set to lock horns in 70 out of the total 90 Assembly constituencies that are voting in the second phase of Chhattisgarh Assembly elections 2023 on Friday, 17 November.

The BJP, which was grappling with a diminished presence of only 15 seats post a 15-year tenure, has seen the central leadership, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, taking charge in the past year.

Catch LIVE updates of the Phase 2 polling in Chhattisgarh here.

While the Congress remained the target of Opposition leaders over alleged scams and corruption, including the recent alleged PSC recruitment scam and the Mahadev betting app scam – which became a major part of the BJP’s poll campaign in the state – the BJP encountered challenges from the Baghel government’s public-oriented narrative and policies in the last five years.

In addition, the BJP focussed on the religious conversion issue, as well as fueling debates and discussions to counter the Congress’ hyper-regionalism – 'Chhattisgarhiyavad' – with Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel at its helm.

Experts opine that although the BJP regained a part of its lost strength in Chhattisgarh with conversion and communal rhetoric, Baghel, in a rare occurrence since the BJP came to power in the Centre in 2014, compelled the BJP to reorient its agendas and compete on a pitch chosen by the Congress.

Meanwhile, the Congress based its campaign on the development work done by the Baghel-led government in the last five years, even as it faced its own set of challenges, including rampant raids by central investigating agencies.

So, as the state prepares to decide the political destiny of 958 candidates, let's deep-dive into the seats that will be closely watched.

Chhattisgarh Elections Phase 2: Why These 5 Seats Will Be Closely Watched

  1. 1. Ambikapur

    Ambikapur is considered to be the pocket borough of Congress stalwart in Chhattisgarh, TS Singhdeo, who was in an alleged seat-sharing formula for the chief minister's post with Baghel during the latter's five-year term. The rift over the same was visible between the two top leaders even as the state was on the verge of elections.

    The Congress attempted to salvage the problem and appointed Singhdeo as the deputy chief minister in Chhattisgarh on 28 June – merely four and a half months ahead of the Assembly elections.

    As Baghel battles accusations of the alleged involvement in the Mahadev betting app scam and coal and liquor scams, among others, Singhdeo could become the pivotal point for the Congress’ stability in the state.

    The BJP has fielded Rajesh Agarwal, a local from Ambikapur who once was a Congress leader close to Singhdeo.

    Another reason the seat is in the limelight is because of the coal mining conflict in the Hasdeo region – a contentious issue for the Congress government during Baghel's tenure, with Singhdeo siding with the native tribal residents and opposing coal mining in the area.

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  2. 2. Kota

    In the Kota Assembly constituency, a closely contested electoral battle unfolds with Dr Renu Jogi, wife of former chief minister Ajit Jogi – who floated the Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) party after breaking up from the Congress – seeking re-election for the fifth time.

    The BJP, too, has fielded Prabal Pratap Singh Judeo, son of late Dilip Singh Judeo, known for his anti-conversion Ghar Wapsi campaign. The Congress, on the other hand, has fielded Atal Shrivastav, a political novice, as their candidate. Shrivastav is also said to be a close associate of Baghel.

    Kota – traditionally a Congress stronghold – witnessed an exception in 2018 when Dr Renu Jogi contested on the JCC(J) ticket, and despite a Congress wave, won the polls. However, Prabal Pratap Judeo's candidature adds complexity as he leveraging the legacy of Dilip Singh Judeo.

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  3. 3. Raigarh

    In the Raigarh Assembly constituency of Chhattisgarh, the traditional electoral contest between the Congress and the BJP has taken an intriguing turn with the entry of a transgender candidate – Madhu Bai Kinnar. While the Congress has fielded incumbent MLA Prakash Nayak, the BJP has fielded former IAS OP Choudhary. Madhu Bai Kinnar – who is the former Raigarh mayor – has been fielded by the JCC(J).

    Despite her confidence, local opinions on Madhu Bai's candidacy vary. She faces competition from the current Congress MLA Nayak who doesn't perceive her as "a significant challenge". On the BJP's side, Choudhary, a former Raigarh collector, refrains from commenting or criticising Madhu Bai.

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  4. 4. Saja

    This seat in Bemetara district is in the spotlight as the BJP has fielded Ishwar Sahu, father of riot victim Bhuwneshwar Sahu who was killed in April this year. Saja is a Congress stronghold held by Cabinet minister and Congress spokesperson Ravindra Choubey who has won from this seat in seven Assembly elections.

    However, the opposition BJP seems to have been gaining ground in Saja after the communal violence. The BJP has fielded Ishwar Sahu against Choubey, and the senior leaders, including Amit Shah, have campaigned to garner support for him.

    In one of the public meetings, Shah said:

    "Ishwar Sahu is not just a candidate but a symbol of the fight for justice. Under Kaka's government, the communal elements brutally killed Bhuwneshwar Sahu. When Baghel's people reached Sahu's home with a cheque in hand and a job offer, Ishwar refused to accept them and demanded justice. Getting him justice is now our responsibility.”
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  5. 5. Patan

    Another high-profile seat in the Chhattisgarh Assembly elections 2023 is the Patan constituency, where Baghel holds his fort against his nephew and BJP MP Vijay Baghel.

    Traditionally a Baghel stronghold since 1993, Patan has seen four contests between the chief minister and his nephew with notable rivalry. Baghel was only defeated once in 2008.

    The entry of Amit Jogi, son of his erstwhile rival in the Congress, has added a new flavor to the elections with Jogi's eyes set on the Satnami and tribal votes of the area.

    The Kurmi community – to which both Baghel and his nephew Vijay Baghel belong to – holds sway in this election, and the Congress’ caste census promise will play a crucial role in voters' decision. Patan, with over 2.1 lakh voters, is poised to witness an intriguing battle, considering the historical Baghel legacy and the evolving political landscape in the region.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Ambikapur

Ambikapur is considered to be the pocket borough of Congress stalwart in Chhattisgarh, TS Singhdeo, who was in an alleged seat-sharing formula for the chief minister's post with Baghel during the latter's five-year term. The rift over the same was visible between the two top leaders even as the state was on the verge of elections.

The Congress attempted to salvage the problem and appointed Singhdeo as the deputy chief minister in Chhattisgarh on 28 June – merely four and a half months ahead of the Assembly elections.

As Baghel battles accusations of the alleged involvement in the Mahadev betting app scam and coal and liquor scams, among others, Singhdeo could become the pivotal point for the Congress’ stability in the state.

The BJP has fielded Rajesh Agarwal, a local from Ambikapur who once was a Congress leader close to Singhdeo.

Another reason the seat is in the limelight is because of the coal mining conflict in the Hasdeo region – a contentious issue for the Congress government during Baghel's tenure, with Singhdeo siding with the native tribal residents and opposing coal mining in the area.

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Kota

In the Kota Assembly constituency, a closely contested electoral battle unfolds with Dr Renu Jogi, wife of former chief minister Ajit Jogi – who floated the Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) party after breaking up from the Congress – seeking re-election for the fifth time.

The BJP, too, has fielded Prabal Pratap Singh Judeo, son of late Dilip Singh Judeo, known for his anti-conversion Ghar Wapsi campaign. The Congress, on the other hand, has fielded Atal Shrivastav, a political novice, as their candidate. Shrivastav is also said to be a close associate of Baghel.

Kota – traditionally a Congress stronghold – witnessed an exception in 2018 when Dr Renu Jogi contested on the JCC(J) ticket, and despite a Congress wave, won the polls. However, Prabal Pratap Judeo's candidature adds complexity as he leveraging the legacy of Dilip Singh Judeo.

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Raigarh

In the Raigarh Assembly constituency of Chhattisgarh, the traditional electoral contest between the Congress and the BJP has taken an intriguing turn with the entry of a transgender candidate – Madhu Bai Kinnar. While the Congress has fielded incumbent MLA Prakash Nayak, the BJP has fielded former IAS OP Choudhary. Madhu Bai Kinnar – who is the former Raigarh mayor – has been fielded by the JCC(J).

Despite her confidence, local opinions on Madhu Bai's candidacy vary. She faces competition from the current Congress MLA Nayak who doesn't perceive her as "a significant challenge". On the BJP's side, Choudhary, a former Raigarh collector, refrains from commenting or criticising Madhu Bai.

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Saja

This seat in Bemetara district is in the spotlight as the BJP has fielded Ishwar Sahu, father of riot victim Bhuwneshwar Sahu who was killed in April this year. Saja is a Congress stronghold held by Cabinet minister and Congress spokesperson Ravindra Choubey who has won from this seat in seven Assembly elections.

However, the opposition BJP seems to have been gaining ground in Saja after the communal violence. The BJP has fielded Ishwar Sahu against Choubey, and the senior leaders, including Amit Shah, have campaigned to garner support for him.

In one of the public meetings, Shah said:

"Ishwar Sahu is not just a candidate but a symbol of the fight for justice. Under Kaka's government, the communal elements brutally killed Bhuwneshwar Sahu. When Baghel's people reached Sahu's home with a cheque in hand and a job offer, Ishwar refused to accept them and demanded justice. Getting him justice is now our responsibility.”
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Patan

Another high-profile seat in the Chhattisgarh Assembly elections 2023 is the Patan constituency, where Baghel holds his fort against his nephew and BJP MP Vijay Baghel.

Traditionally a Baghel stronghold since 1993, Patan has seen four contests between the chief minister and his nephew with notable rivalry. Baghel was only defeated once in 2008.

The entry of Amit Jogi, son of his erstwhile rival in the Congress, has added a new flavor to the elections with Jogi's eyes set on the Satnami and tribal votes of the area.

The Kurmi community – to which both Baghel and his nephew Vijay Baghel belong to – holds sway in this election, and the Congress’ caste census promise will play a crucial role in voters' decision. Patan, with over 2.1 lakh voters, is poised to witness an intriguing battle, considering the historical Baghel legacy and the evolving political landscape in the region.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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