Sparks fly as campaign for Round 1 of polls ends
CURTAINRAISER Bastar to set pattern for voting in MP, Rajasthan, Mizoram RAIPUR:
Campaigning ended on a combative note on Saturday for the first phase of polling in the Maoist stronghold of Chhattisgarh, with the Bharatijaya Party (BJP) claiming to have almost ended left-wing extremism in the state and the Congress asserting it needed no lessons in patriotism from the BJP, in a riposte to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s allegation that it backed Maoist sympathisers.
BJP president, Amit Shah, spoke for the ruling party, taking over from Modi, who claimed on Friday that the Congress was soft on so-called “urban naxals,” or left-wing activists based in the cities sympathetic to the cause of Maoists, and accused it of describing the rebels as “revolutionaries”.
“The BJP government under chief minister Raman Singh has contained Naxalism and made the state almost free of it,” Shah claimed, releasing the BJP’s election manifesto. “A party that feels Naxalism is a medium for revolution cannot do any good for Chhattisgarh,” he added in a reference to the Congress.
Gandhi retorted: ““Don’t teach us patriotism. There is a line of martyrs in our party.”
Monday’s first phase of polling in Chhattisgarh, which will be held amid tight security assured by thousands of police and paramilitary troopers, will cover 18 of the 90 assembly seats in the state, where the remaining will vote on November 20. Twelve of the 18 are located in the Bastar region, a Maoist hotbed.
The Congress won 12 and BJP 6 in the region, where polling was less than the statewide average of 77.12%. Overall, the BJP got 49 and Congress 39 with one each to BSP and an independent. This time around, Modi has visited Chhattisgarh twice since the election was announced on October 6; Gandhi has been there three times.
“The first phase of polling is very important for both the parties. The pattern and polling will reflect the political wave in Chhattisgarh,” said Ashok Tomar, a political commentator based in Raipur.
Polling in Bastar will also raise the curtain on the elections that will take place over the next month in the Hindi heartland states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, besides Chhattisgarh,
Congress president Rahul Gandhi addresses an election rally in Kanker, Chhattisgarh on Saturday