RAIPUR: Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, the fourth after it was carved out as a separate state in 2000, is likely to witness a direct contest between the two national parties - BJP and Congress in most of the 90 assembly segments, though in around twenty odd seats the political pundits predict a triangular contest following the pre-poll alliance between the parties of Ajit Jogi and Mayawati.
The political parties have geared-up their exercise with the BJP led by the chief minister Raman Singh who is aspiring for the fourth consecutive term, the main opposition Congress out of power since 2003 is virtually in a "do-or-die situation" as the party leaders opined that they can't afford to lose again after the three consecutive poll debacles. The pact between the first chief minister Ajit Jogi's political outfit Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (J) and the Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) for the first time emerged as a viable third front in the state which so far has seen a bipolar contest.
Though compared to BJP and Congress the new alliance contesting all seats appears smaller - limited by its size, appeal and narrow base. With only few prominent public personalities in the parties of Jogi and Mayawati, the political observers are not confident over the electoral arithmetic likely to work in their favour. "But the pre-poll pact can dent the victory margins of Congress candidates and in some place may harm the prospects of BJP too", said Anirudh Vyas, a political expert.
The party strategists in both BJP and the Congress have revealed to the Express on fielding new faces in substantial strength during the elections. The local issues would surely play a significant role in deciding the fare of the candidates. Owing to it the 2008 and 2013 elections saw the anti-incumbency in individual seats going against the candidates irrespective of the parties.
The BJP, largely dependent on the face value of Raman Singh- the longest-serving BJP chief minister, is banking on development plank, combined with the "good governance" of the BJP led Centre and the state besides the populist welfare measures. The BJP chief has given a target of 65 seats for the party.
Congress state president Bhupesh Baghel told the Express that his party's target is to focus on all seats and the party will keep alive the issues of 'corruption, inflation, poor governance' against the BJP. The polls are also likely to be centred around the farmers and youths for the opposition. Roads, water and power (electricity) which usually remain in most of the states as predominant issues are not likely to figure prominently among the election agenda for the parties in Chhattisgarh.
Out of the 23632 polling booths as many as 5625 have been declared as sensitive by the Election Commission (EC) in the state. 90 returning officers and 180 assistant returning officers who qualified the examinations conducted by the EC have been trained for this year polls.