Congress hopes to reverse Modi wave in forest-rich state

Congress hopes to reverse Modi wave in forest-rich state

As campaigning comes to a close on Tuesday in Chhattisgarh’s remaining seven seats, Congress hopes to reverse the so called “Modi wave” in this forest-rich state as the grand old party puts up a strong fight against BJP in at least half a dozen constituencies.

The constituencies where polling would be held on April 24 are Surguja, Raigarh, Janjgir-Champa, Korba, Bilaspur, Durg and Raipur.

Polling in Maoist-affected Bastar and three other constituencies – Rajnandgaon, Mahasamund and Kanker – were conducted in the first two phases. While Congress could not take its tally beyond a lone seat – Mahasamund in 2004 and Korba in 2009 – in the previous two general elections, this time the contest is close, in at least six seats – Surguja, Korba, Bilaspur, Mahasamund, Kanker and Bastar.

Chhattisgarh’s northern-most constituency, Surguja, offers a glimmer of hope to Congress. In the past BJP and Congress were on an even ground in this area. The political landscape changed in 2013 when Congress bagged seven out of Surguja’s eight Assembly segments, under the leadership of T S Baba, who hails from Ambikapur royal family.

Maoist-affected Kanker is another constituency on which Congress is optimistic. As many as six out of eight Assembly segments are with Congress, whose political fortune revived in Bastar in the 2013 Assembly polls. In 2009, Congress’s Phoolo Devi Netam lost by a margin of less than 20,000 votes, which she hopes to reverse this time countering the Modi wave.

Besides former chief minister Ajit Jogi, who is contesting from Mahasamund after a decade, Congress expects Union Minister Charandas Mahant and former MP Karuna Shukla would deliver at Korba and Bilaspur respectively. Shukla, a niece of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, quit the saffron party and joined the Congress last year.

“In Bilaspur Lok Sabha seat, Ajit Jogi has a large number of lower caste and scheduled tribe votes. Entry of Shukla will bring upper caste votes to the Congress,” said a local Congress leader.

Yet another seat, where Congress may be having an edge is Maoist-affected Bastar, where slain Congress leader Mahendra Karma’s son Deepak Karma is pitted against BJP’s Deepak Kashyap. The polling at Bastar was completed on April 10.

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