Bilaspur to see tooth and nail battle between Cong and BJP

The picturesque landscape outside Bilaspur's city limits is dotted by rows of power transmission towers, signifying Chhattishgarh's status as a power surplus state.

However, Anand Mishra, says this doesn’t reflect in the quality of people’s lives.
“Long hours of power cut are commonplace in the countryside. The power does not reach the poor. The city too experiences load-shedding,” said Mishra, who is the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate from Bilaspur, to Deccan Herald.

Development – or rather the lack of it in Chatttishgarh's busiest trading hub and key railway junction – has become the poll issue here with both the Congress and AAP accusing BJP of ignoring Bilaspur for the last 18 years and focusing entirely on Raipur, the state capital.

“There is no flyover in Bilaspur. There is an airstrip but no efforts have been made to make it a functional airport with commercial flights,” says former MP Karuna Shukla, who is contesting from Bilaspur on a Congress ticket. Shukla, who is former BJP prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s niece, quit the saffron party last year because of her differences with the Narendra Modi camp.

Chhattishgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh has chosen local BJP leader Lakhan Lal Sahu, district president of Mungeli, as the Lok Sabha candidate from Bilaspur. He is considered a light-weight when compared to Shukla, who claims her switch from the BJP to the Congress will not matter to her voters.

In a high-profile battle in 2009, BJP's Dilip Singh Judeo, former ruler of the princely state of Jashpur, won the Bilaspur seat, defeating Congress's Renu Jogi – wife of former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi – by a margin of 20,000 votes. Judeo barely returned to the constituency and died last August.

The Bilaspur Lok Sabha seat comprises eight Assembly segments – Kota, Lormi, Mungeli, Takhatpur, Bilha, Bilaspur, Beltara and Masturi. Congress won three of these and BJP bagged five in the 2013 Assembly polls. In Takhatpur the BJP's winning margin was a wafer-thin 600 votes.

Sahu is banking on the support from Bilaspur MLA Amar Agarwal, a powerful minister in Raman Singh’s cabinet. But locals say both BJP and Congress candidates are facing “internal faction politics” because senior party leaders aren’t showing their best effort to help their respective parties win.

Mishra, one of the two better known AAP candidates in Chhattishgarh, has made the poll battle interesting by talking undue benefits to industries, drop in the water levels and ecological harm that the young generation has  to contend with.

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