PM Narendra Modi address BJP supporters in Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh
Raipur/New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi hit the campaign trail today in Chhattisgarh, where people will vote for the assembly elections in two phases on November 12 and 20. Mr Gandhi attacked the BJP government over alleged inaction against insolvent businessmen who have "fled the country". "You have heard about Nirav Modi. That person met the finance minister before leaving for London," Mr Gandhi said. PM Modi, after introducing a group of BJP candidates and asking people to vote for them, said, "We have put an end to discrimination and lived by sabka sath, sabka vikas (development for all)."
Here's your 10-point cheat-sheet to the Chhattisgarh assembly election:
The BJP is banking on PM Modi's overall pull and election-winning formula that have worked in some states like Assam to retain the heartland state rich in natural resources and where Maoists are active in some pockets. The Congress campaign is also trying to swing voters in its favour by promising to keep farmers happy and not letting unchecked development bulldoze the interest of fragile communities.
PM Modi in his address at Jagdalpur, the headquarters of Bastar district, said: "Urban Maoists live in air-conditioned homes, study abroad, roam around in fancy cars and try to disrupt peace here. Why is Congress supporting these urban Maoists?" BJP leaders regularly use "urban Maoists" to refer to people in the cities who they allege are involved in carrying out anti-national activities. The opposition says PM Modi cannot stomach criticism.
After the rally in Jagdalpur, PM Modi will hold a road-show in Rajnandgaon, the constituency of Chief Minister Raman Singh. He faces the Congress's Karuna Shukla, niece of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Rahul Gandhi addressed rallies in Pakhanjore, Khairagarh, Dongargarh and Gunj Chowk. He will stay the night at Rajnandgaon, 71 km from state capital Raipur. The morning after, Mr Gandhi is scheduled to hold public meetings at Rajnandgaon district.
The election authorities have gone on an overdrive to raise awareness among villagers and forest-dwellers about voting in Chhattisgarh's interior areas where the Maoist threat is high.
The intensity of the awareness campaign is such that at some places, banners of the Election Commission asking people to celebrate 'vote pandum' or 'festival of vote' in the local Gondi language, outnumber and outsize the posters of political parties, news agency Press Trust of India reported.
Security is a big challenge in the state. Dantewada senior police officer Abhishek Pallav said though adequate force has been deployed, the threat of improvised explosive device (IED) and pressure bombs, which are at times hard to detect, is quite high.
Five people, including a security personnel, were killed after Maoists triggered an explosion in Dantewada district on Thursday. The explosion took place in a hilly area in Dantewada when the security personnel were returning to their camp after buying groceries from a market.
The Congress lost to the BJP in the 2013 Chhattisgarh assembly election after it won only 39 seats in the 90-seat house. The ruling BJP bagged 49 seats; one each was won by the Bahujan Samaj Party and an independent.
People in eight Maoist-affected districts will vote to select legislators for 18 seats on November 12. Of these, 12 are Scheduled Tribes seats and one Scheduled Castes reserved seat. People in the remaining 72 constituencies will vote on November 20. Counting of votes is on December 11.