Chhattisgarh polls: Congress releases first list of 30 candidates
CM Bhupesh Baghel will contest from his traditional Patan seat, Dy CM T.S. Singh Deo from his Ambikapur constituency, and assembly speaker Charan Das Mahant from his Sakti seat
The Congress on Sunday released the list of 30 candidates for Chhattisgarh assembly polls, re-nominating 22 sitting MLAs, including Baghel, his all 12 cabinet colleagues and state assembly speaker Charandas Mahant.
Baghel said those who were spreading rumours that he would change his seat will now keep their mouths shut.
The ruling party in Chhattisgarh has denied tickets to eight sitting legislators, while it has fielded state unit chief and MP Deepak Baij.
Elections to the 90-member Chhattisgarh assembly will be held in two phases on 7 November and 17 November.
Of the 30 seats for which the Congress has announced its candidates, 14 are reserved for the Scheduled Tribes and three for Scheduled Castes categories.
In the other 13 general seats, candidates belonging to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) have been fielded in nine seats. Four women candidates, including a sitting minister and two MLAs, are on the list.
Baghel will contest from his traditional Patan seat and deputy CM T.S. Singh Deo from his Ambikapur constituency, while Chhattisgarh assembly speaker Charan Das Mahant has been re-nominated from his Sakti seat.
The ministers who have been given tickets are Tamradhwaj Sahu (Durg rural), Amarjeet Bhagat (Sitapur-ST), Umesh Patel (Kharsia), Jai Singh Agrawal (Korba), Shivkumar Dahariya (Arang-SC), Anila Bhendia (Dondi Lohara-ST), Ravindra Choubey (Saja), Mohammad Akbar (Kawardha), Kawasi Lakhma (Konta) and Mohan Lal Markam (Kondagaon).
Minister Guru Rudra Kumar, who contested the 2018 poll from Ahiwara seat (Durg district), has been fielded from Navagarh-SC constituency in neighbouring Bemetara district.
Congress sitting MLA from Navagarh Gurudayal Singh Banjare does not feature in the list released on Sunday.
State Congress chief and Bastar Lok Sabha member Deepak Baij has been fielded from Chitrakot-ST seat.
Baij won the 2018 assembly election from Chitrakot, but he vacated the seat after winning the Lok Sabha poll in 2019. Congress candidate Rajman Benzam had won the bypoll held for the seat.
The other candidates who have been fielded replacing sitting MLAs from their seats are- Neelkanth Chandravanshi (Pandariya seat), Bhola Ram Sahu (Khujji), Roop Singh Potai (Antagarh-ST), Shankar Dhruv (Kanker-ST), Harshita Swami Baghel (Dongargarh-SC) and K Chhavindra Mahendra Karma.
Except for former MLAs Bhola Ram Sahu and Shankar Dhruv, the four others are fresh faces.
Karma is the son of sitting MLA Devti Karma and Congress leader Mahendra Karma, who was killed in a Naxal attack in 2013. Neelkanth Chandravanshi is the president of Kabirdham district unit of Congress, while Harshita Swami Baghel is a member of the Rajnandgaon Zila Panchayat.
Congress leader and Chhattisgarh Mineral Development Corporation Chairman Girish Dewangan has been fielded from Rajnandgaon seat against Raman Singh, the Bharatiya Janata Party's national vice president and former chief minister of the state.
Premises linked to Dewangan were also searched by the Enforcement Directorate earlier this year, as part of an ongoing investigation into the coal levy money laundering case.
Yashoda Verma (Khairagarh), Daleshwar Sahu (Dongargaon), Indrashah Mandavi (Mohla-Manpur ST), Savitri Mandavi (Bhanupratappur-ST), Sant Ram Netam (Keshkal-ST), Chandan Kashyap (Narayanpur-ST), Lakheshwar Baghel (Bastar-ST) and Vikram Mandavi (Bijapur-ST) are other incumbent MLAs who have been repeated this time.
Of the nine OBC candidates featuring on the list, three belong to Sahu, a dominant OBC community in the state that hugely contributed to Congress' victory in the previous polls.
The Congress has not declared a candidate for Jagdalpur, which is among the 20 constituencies slated to go to polls in the first phase on November 7.
The filing of nominations for the first phase began on October 13.
The second phase of polls will be held November 17, covering 70 constituencies. Votes will be counted on December 3.
CM Baghel visited Maa Mahamaya temple in Raipur and offered prayers in the afternoon.
Talking to reporters, he expressed his gratitude to the party high command for re-nominating him from Patan constituency and said that the mouths of "those who were spreading rumours (that he would change his seat)" have been shut.
Sitting MLAs on eight seats have been replaced with other candidates in the first list and no more candidates could be changed beyond this, he said.
He exuded confidence that his party candidate Girish Dewangan would defeat former CM and senior BJP leader Raman Singh in Rajnandgaon.
The BJP has so far announced its candidates for 85 seats, including the 20 seats where elections will be held in the first phase.
In the 2018 Chhattisgarh assembly polls, the Congress registered a landslide victory by securing 68 seats in the 90-member House and comfortably formed the government.
The BJP was reduced to 15 seats, while the Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (J) and the Bahujan Samaj Party had bagged 5 and 2 seats, respectively.
The present strength of the Congress in the House is 71. It has set a target of winning 75 seats this time.
(With inputs from PTI)