BJP, Congress image at stake in Chhattisgarh

April 13th, 2009 - 6:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Raipur, April 13 (IANS) Chhattisgarh’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is struggling to repeat its 2004 result when it won 10 of the 11 Lok Sabha seats in the state that goes to the polls Thursday.
The BJP claims it is set to blank out the Congress party, which however is confident of gaining in a major way from the many corruption scandals dogging the state government.

A total of 178 candidates are in the fray, including nine who face criminal charges and seven who have declared assets of over Rs.1 crore. Besides the BJP and the Congress, and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is also contesting all 11 seats.

Analysts say that Other Backward Classes (OBC), who form roughly 50 percent of the state’s 15.4 million voters, hold the key to the fortunes of the contestants. Women voters total around 7.6 million.

Political analyst Anil Vibhakar said: “In November, when the BJP pulled off a victory in assembly polls, everyone credited it to people’s approval of Chief Minister Raman Singh’s clean image. Now he has to prove that he really has a hold over the masses.”

Raman Singh told IANS: “The BJP is striving hard to blank out the Congress. We are seeking votes mainly on two issues - the achievements of the state government and the Congress-led central government’s consistent neglect of Chhattisgarh.”

Congress state general secretary Ramesh Varlyani said: “We’re doing our best to expose the BJP for taking corruption to saturation levels since December 2003 when their government came to power, and also the misuse of funds being provided by the central government for welfare schemes in the state.”

Party insiders say the BJP has an edge over the Congress on four seats - Bastar, Kanker, Surguja and Raipur. The first three are reserved for tribal candidates. In state capital Raipur, BJP leader and former union minister Ramesh Bais looks set to pull off his sixth straight victory.

The other seven seats are too close to call. They are Mahasamund, Durg, Rajnandgaon, Bilaspur, Korba, Raigarh and Janjgir-Champa.

The contest in Bilaspur has all the star value, with BJP’s flamboyant leader and former central minister Dilip Singh Judeo pitted against Renu Jogi, wife of Congress leader and state’s first chief minister Ajit Jogi.

At Korba, the niece of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and BJP’s national vice-president Karuna Shukla is locked in a straight battle with her old rival and Congress state president Charandas Mahant.

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