The opposition BJP has pinned its hopes on the old guard to ensure victory in the next month’s assembly elections in Chhattisgarh as it has given tickets to 11 sitting MLAs and renominated 13 leaders who lost in the 2018 polls.
The BJP on Monday released its second list of candidates for 64 assembly seats, hours after the Election Commission announced assembly poll dates for Chhattisgarh and four other states.
The Maoist-affected state will have a two-phase polling on November 7 (20 seats) and November 17 (70 seats) to elect a new 90-member assembly.
With this, the BJP has so far declared candidates for 85 seats with just five nominees left to be named.
Former chief minister Raman Singh will be contesting from his traditional Rajnandgaon seat, while Leader of Opposition in the assembly Narayan Prasad Chandel has been renominated from his current seat Janjir-Champa.
Popular Chhattisgarhi filmstar Anuj Sharma, who recently joined the BJP, has been fielded from Dharsiwa in Raipur district.
Ishwar Sahu, a villager whose son was killed in a communal clash in April this year in Biranpur village of Bemetara district, also featured in the list of candidates.
The main opposition party has denied ticket to sitting MLA Damrudhar Pujari (Bindranawgarh-ST reserved).
It has fielded legislator Dharamjeet Singh, who recently joined the BJP after being expelled from the Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) last year, from Takhatpur seat.
Three MPs, including a Union minister, and two former IAS officers also feature in the list which also has names of more than 20 fresh faces and nine women candidates.
Of the 64 seats for which nominees were announced by the BJP on Monday, 19 are reserved for Scheduled Tribes (ST) and nine for Scheduled Castes (SC).
State BJP president and Bilaspur Member of Parliament Arun Sao has been fielded from Lormi, Surguja MP and Union minister of State for Tribal Affairs Renuka Singh from Bharatpur-Sonhat (ST reserved) and Raigarh Lok Sabha member Gomti Sai from Pathalgaon (ST).
The other MLAs who have been retained are Brijmohan Agrawal (Raipur South), Punnulal Mohile (Mungeli-SC), Nankiram Kanwar (Rampur-ST), Dharamlal Kaushik (Bilha), Dr Krishnamurti Bandhi (Masturi-SC), Saurabh Singh (Akaltara), Shivratan Sharma (Bhatapara), Ajay Chandrakar (Kurud) and Rajana Dipendra Sahu (Dhamtari).
BJP candidates who lost in 2018, but in whom the party has reposed faith this time also are Shyam Bihari Jaiswal (Manendragarh), Bhaiyyalal Rajwade (Baikunthpur), Ramdayal Uikey (Pali-Tanakhar-ST), Kedar Kashyap (Narayanpur-ST), Mahesh Gagda (Bijapur-ST), Prem Prakash Pandey (Bhilai Nagar), Dayaldas Baghel (Navagarh-SC), Rajesh Munat (Raipur West), Vikram Usendi (Antagarh-ST), Amar Agrawal (Bilaspur) and Sanyogita Singh Judev (Chandrapur).
Sanyogita Judev is the wife of former MLA late Yuddhvir Singh Judev, who was the son of BJP stalwart Dilip Singh Judev. Another son of BJP leader late Dilip Singh Judev, Prabal Pratap Singh Judev, has been fielded from Kota.
Former IAS officer OP Chaudhary, who lost the previous elections from Kharsia, has been fielded from adjoining Raigarh, while Sampat Agrawal, who unsuccessfully contested as an independent candidate five years ago, is the BJP nominee from Basna.
BJP leader Motilal Sahu, who had suffered defeat at the hands of Chief Minister and Congress leader Bhupesh Baghel from Patan in 2018, has been fielded from Raipur Rural this time.
The party has also fielded Ishwar Sahu from Saja seat in Bemetara district. His son Bhuneshwar Sahu (22) was killed in communal violence in Biranpur village on April 8.
Former IAS officer Neelkanth Tekam, who joined the BJP in August after quitting the elite service, will contest from the Keshkal (ST) seat.
Former Union minister and ex-state BJP chief Vishnu Deo Sai has been fielded from Kunkuri (ST).
The BJP has fielded Dharamjeet Singh, who recently joined the party, from Takhatpur. Singh is currently the MLA from Lormi, where the BJP has fielded its state unit president Arun Sao.
Talking to reporters here, Mr Sao said while the party has given chance to young faces, experienced leaders have also been fielded to contest polls.
“So, it is a mixture of young and experienced leaders,” said the state BJP president.
Asked about resentment among BJP workers over selection of candidates in some seats, he said the party has given tickets while considering every angle and aspect in a constituency.
“All party workers will work together to ensure BJP’s victory in the upcoming polls,” Mr Sao said.
Taking a dig at the BJP’s second list of candidates, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel on Monday said the opposition party has reposed faith in those who were rejected by voters in the previous elections.
“Yesterday (while leaving for Delhi) I had said the BJP’s list of candidates was deliberately leaked (referring to purported list of BJP candidates that had gone viral last week). If it had not been deliberately done, the IT and ED would have raided (those involved in alleged leak),” he said.
“It was done as a part of the BJP’s strategy. The BJP has put faith in those who were rejected by people, be it Amar Agrawal, Premprakash Pandey or Rajesh Munat. The party does not have faces in the state,” Mr Baghel said.
Queried whether the BJP was trying to raise the issue of communal violence in Biranpur (Bemetara district) by fielding local villager Ishwar Sahu, Mr Baghel said, “No matter how hard they try, it will not be an issue. There were other BJP workers in Saja (from where Sahu has been fielded). He (Sahu) is a purely non-political person.”
In the 2018 assembly polls, the Congress won 68 of the total 90 seats, while the BJP finished a distant second with 15. The Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J), founded by former CM late Ajit Jogi, bagged five seats and its ally Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) won in two segments.
The ruling party further consolidated its hold in the state with victory in bypolls held for five assembly seats after 2018. The Congress tally currently stands at 71.
The opposition BJP currently has 13 seats in the House, the JCC(J) 3 and the BSP 2 seats. One seat is currently lying vacant.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)