Chhattisgarh’s top guns face tough fight (Curtain Raiser)

Raipur, April 22: Chhattisgarh’s political bigwigs, including a niece of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, face their toughest battle as the third and final phase of polling takes place in the state Thursday.

Those in the fray include six-time BJP MP and former union minister Ramesh Bais, Congress leader and union minister of state Charandas Mahant and Karuna Shukla, who is Vajpayee’s niece.

Chhattisgarh has 11 Lok Sabha seats and polling for four seats was held in two phases April 10 and 17.

The remaining seven seats – Raipur, Durg, Bilaspur, Korba, Surguja, Raigarh and Janjgir-Champa go to the polls Thursday. An electorate of about 1.18 crore will decide the fate of 150 candidates for the seven seats.

Raipur, Korba, Bilaspur and Durg are considered the main constituencies.

An interesting battle is in Bilaspur where Congress has fielded Karuna Shukla. She had been in BJP for about 25 years and only recently she crossed over to the Congress.

The BJP has put up Lakhanlal Sahu, a local heavyweight of the powerful OBC community, to settle scores with Shukla.

“Bilaspur seat has become grudge battle for the BJP, she (Shukla) has embarrassed the BJP by joining the Congress and also made some personal remarks against (BJP’s prime ministerial candidate) Narendra Modi,” said Vishnudeo Sai, BJP state chief.

State Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel stated: “Even the close family member of Vajpayee deserted the BJP which shows the party has no respect for even senior women leaders and it also established the fact that there is no Modi wave in the country.”

Ramesh Bais, one of the seniormost BJP leaders in the state, is attempting to pull off the sixth straight victories from Raipur seat though opposition Congress and even some of his party colleagues accuse him of being highly inactive in his constituency.

Bais is locked in a direct fight with Congress nominee Satyanarayan Sharma, a former minister in Chhattisgarh government.

In Korba, Charandas Mahant is fighting hard to retain the seat. Political analysts say that Mahant is facing serious challenges not only from the BJP nominee Banshilal Mahto but also from within his party.

Sources say that a powerful lobby in Congress too is doing its best to ensure Mahant’s defeat. He also faced protest in electioneering of practically “doing nothing” for his constituency despite being the union minister of state.

IANS