Last phase of Chhattisgarh Assembly polls on Tuesday (Lead)
Raipur : A three-way contest is in the offing as Chhattisgarh goes for the second and concluding phase of Assembly polls on Tuesday for 72 seats spread across 19 districts, with the ruling BJP wrestling it out with the opposition Congress and the Ajit Jogi-Mayawati-led alliance emerging as a formidable third front.
A total of 1,079 candidates are in the fray, and both Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are contesting all the 72 seats. The Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is in the fray for 25 seats and its ally and former Chief Minister Jogi's Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (J) is vying in 46 seats.
The Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has fielded candidates in 66 constituencies.
Polling will be held from 8 a.m to 5 p.m in all 72 seats where an electorate of over 1.5 crore, including over 77 lakh male and over 76 lakh female voters are eligible to exercise their franchise. There are nearly 1,000 voters from the third gender.
Elaborate security arrangements including use of helicopters and drone have been put in place for the polls to take place at over 19,000 polling booths and over a lakh security personnel have been deployed.
For the Maoist-affected Gariaband, Dhamtari, Mahasamund, Kabirdham, Jashpur and Balrampur districts, extra security arrangements have been made.
Carved out of Madhya Pradesh in 2000, the state where the BJP is in power since 2003, is witnessing a three-way poll battle for the first time.
Jogi -- who ruled the state for the first three years as a Congress Chief Minister, later floated his own outfit and aligned with the BSP and the CPI -- is perceived to impact the poll battle where the vote share difference between the BJP and the Congress was less than one per cent in 2013.
In 2013, the BJP with 41.04 per cent vote share had own 49 seat, while the Congress won 38 seats with a vote share of 40.29 per cent in the 90-member Assembly.
Among the prominent faces in fray in the last phase are state Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel (Patan), Leader of Opposition in the Assembly T.S. Singh Deo (Ambikapur) and former Union Minister Charandas Mahant (Shakti).
For the BJP, the list includes state ministers Brijmohan Agrawal (Raipur City South), Rajesh Munat (Raipur City West), Amar Agrawal (Bilaspur), Prem Prakash Pandey (Bhilai Nagar), Dayaldas Baghel (Nawagarh) and state party president Dharamlal Kaushik (Bilha).
For the alliance, Jogi is in the fray from Marwahi, his wife Renu Jogi is contesting from Kota, while his daughter-in-law Richa Jogi is a BSP nominee from the Akaltara seat.
The high-decibel poll campaign which ended on Sunday, saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah, Chief Minister Raman Singh and his Uttar Pradesh counterpart Yogi Adityanath raising the pitch for the party.
For the Congress, which looking to unseat the BJP, President Rahul Gandhi led from the front targeting Modi and the Raman Singh government over corruption and agrarian distress.
Besides flaying Modi for demonetisation, Gandhi also dared the Prime Minister to speak up over the Rafale deal which the Congress calls to be India's "biggest defence scam".
The BJP's campaign centered around attacking the Congress over dynasty politics, with the Nehru-Gandhi family being the focal point of both Modi and Shah's attack.
The first phase of election in 18 constituencies across eight Maoist-affected districts of the state took place on November 12 and saw a 76.28 per cent voting despite the rebels threatening people to stay away from the poll process.
The results will be declared on December 11.