Battle of Bastar crucial to win Chhattisgarh

    By Amit Agnihotri, IANS,

    Raipur : The ruling BJP and the Congress are literally leaving no stone unturned to win the crucial battle of Bastar with Chhattisgarh as the big prize.

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    While Congress chief Sonia Gandhi addressed a rally in Kondgaon district on Thursday, her son and party vice president Rahul Gandhi spoke to the voters in Rajnandgaon and Kanker districts on Friday.

    Both the Gandhis attacked the Raman Singh government in the state for its failure to prevent the May 25 Maoist attack on Congress leaders in Jhiramghati in the Bastar region when a Congress convoy was returning from a public rally and accused him of “shedding crocodile tears” over the incident.

    And realising that the going may not be smooth for it this time, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) deployed its poster boy and prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 national polls, Narendra Modi, who campaigned in the Jagdalpur, Kanker and Dhoregaon areas Thursday.

    Polling will be held in the first phase Nov 11 for 12 seats in the tribal majority Bastar region and six seats in neighbouring Rajnandgaon, both under Maoist influence. Polling for the remaining 72 seats is slated for Nov 19. The results will be out Dec 8.

    The Bastar region, the most backward in the state, is crucial for forming the government in the state. The BJP was able to come to power in 2008 on the strength of its sweep in the Bastar region, taking 11 out of the 12 seats.

    The Congress, which got just one seat in 2008, is confident it will reverse the situation this time and form the government.

    “We will win eight seats in the Bastar region. We are ahead in two more seats,” Congress state unit chief Charan Das Mahant told IANS.

    According to B.K. Hari Prasad, general secretary in charge of the state, the swing in favour of the Congress is coming partly due to the sympathy factor after the May 25 Maoist attack in which the party’s entire frontline leadership was wiped out and partly due to the poor performance of the BJP government.

    “There is no development in the state. People are fed up with corruption in the government. The tribals have been taking note of all this and are coming back to us,” Hari Prasad told IANS.

    The Congress, he said, is giving a tough fight to the BJP in other parts of the state also where polling will be held on Nov 19.

    Although the BJP tried to sound confident, it agreed that this is not going to be an easy election for the ruling party.

    “This is not an easy election for us,” Tourism and PWD Minister Brij Mohan Aggarwal told IANS. “But we will form the government,” he asserted.

    BJP sources agreed they may not win all the 11 seats in Bastar this time and the party may end up with only half the 2008 tally.

    Aggarwal said the BJP may lose a few seats in the Bastar region but will be compensated by the Rajnandgaon area, the stronghold of chief minister Raman Singh.

    Rubbishing the Congress charges, Aggarwal said, “there was a lot of development challenges in the state which was created only 13 years ago.”

    (Amit Agnihotri can be contacted at [email protected])