RAIPUR: Battle lines have been drawn for the Dantewada Assembly seat by-election in Chhattisgarh on September 23 wherein nine candidates are in the fray.
The by-election in the Naxal-affected seat, reserved for Scheduled Tribe (ST) candidates, was necessitated following the death of sitting BJP MLA Bhima Mandavi in a Naxal attack in April this year.
"After the end of the deadline for withdrawal of nominations on Saturday, nine candidates are in the fray," an election official said here on Sunday.
Earlier, 10 candidates filed their nominations and papers of nine of them were found valid after scrutiny, he said. "None of the candidates withdrew their nomination," he added.
The seat is likely to witness a direct contest between the ruling Congress and the opposition BJP.
The Congress has again reposed faith in Devti Karma, wife of party leader Mahendra Karma who was killed in the Jhiram valley Naxal attack in 2013, for the bypoll.
The BJP has fielded Ojaswi Mandavi, wife of Bhima Mandavi, in a bid to cash in on the sympathy vote.
The other contestants are - Hemant Poyam (BSP), Sujit Karma (Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J)), Bhimsen Mandavi (CPI), Ajay Nag (NCP), Ballu Ram Bhawani (AAP), Yogesh Markam (Gondwana Gantantra Party) and Independent Sudru Ram Kunjam.
In the 2018 state Assembly polls, Devti Karma lost to BJP's Bhima Mandavi in Dantewada by a thin margin of 2,172 votes.
Prior to it, she won from the seat in the 2013 state polls by defeating him.
Bhima Mandavi and four policemen were killed on April 9 this year in a powerful IED blast triggered by Maoists near Shyamgiri village in Dantewada district.
Dantewada was the only Assembly seat won by the BJP in the 2018 elections in the Bastar division, which consists of 12 Assembly segments.
In the state polls held last year for the 90-member Assembly, the Congress won 68 seats, while the BJP bagged 15.