On Tuesday, all 40 Assembly seats in Mizoram and 20 of Chhattisgarh’s 90 seats will go to polls.
In Mizoram, 8.57 lakh voters will choose from 174 candidates. Polling will begin across 1,276 booths at 7 am and end at 4 pm.
Led by Chief Minister Zoramthanga, the Mizo National Front (MNF) is in pole position – the party has 27 MLAs in the outgoing Assembly and won comfortably in the 2018 polls with 37.7% vote share. But it faces a stiff challenge from the Congress, which has 5 MLAs but was in power between 2008 and 2018, and the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM), which was formed after the 2018 polls and has six sitting MLAs. The BJP won its first and only seat in the state in 2018 and remains a minor player.
While the MNF is hoping its campaign centred on Mizo nationalism will fuel its return to power for a second consecutive time, the ZPM is being increasingly seen as the key challenger, as reported by Sukrita Baruah. Led by its CM face Lalduhoma, former IPS officer, the ZPM has generated a buzz with its promise to undertake government reforms.
The Congress’s campaign has been centred on an anti-BJP plank, portraying the MNF and ZPM as “entry points” for the BJP into the Christian majority state. The BJP, which is contesting in just 23 seats, will hope to improve on its 2018 tally and play a role in government formation.
In Chhattisgarh, the 20 seats going to polls are largely concentrated in the southern Naxal-affected region and have considerable tribal populations. There are 40.78 lakh voters and 5,304 booths in these seats with 223 candidates in the fray. While voting will take place from 7am to 3pm in 10 seats, the remaining will vote from 8am to 4pm.
The state will see a direct contest between the ruling Congress and the BJP. In 2018, the Congress had won in a landslide with 43.04% of the vote share compared to the BJP’s 32.97%. In the outgoing Assembly, the Congress has 71 MLAs and the BJP 14.
Among the key contests on Tuesday is in Rajnandgaon, where the BJP’s former CM Raman Singh will face the Congress’s Girish Dewangan, chairman of State Mineral Development Corporation. Congress MP and state unit chief Deepak Baij is contesting in Chitrakot while tribal leader and former state unit chief Mohan Markam is contesting from Kondagaon, where he will face former BJP minister Lata Usendi.
The ruling Congress has focused its campaign on its welfare programmes and its promise of a farm loan waiver. The BJP, which released its manifesto just days before the first phase, has matched the Congress’s promises, including higher paddy procurement prices, housing for the poor, free healthcare, and subsidised LPG cylinders, as reported by Jayprakash S Naidu. Though the BJP hasn’t matched the Congress’s farm loan waiver promise, the party has attacked the Baghel government on corruption, including the Mahadev betting app scam.
Nagaland’s Tapi Assembly seat will also hold a bypoll on Tuesday, necessitated by the death of Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) MLA Noke Wangnao. The NDPP’s main rival for the seat is the Congress. Results will be announced on December 3 along with the five state Assembly polls.
In the other poll-bound states, poll activity is rising with more heavyweights hitting the campaign trail. In Telangana, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is attending the ‘Backward Classes Atma Gaurava Sabha (BC self-respect meeting)’ in Hyderabad on Tuesday. Last month, Union Home Minister had announced at a rally that if the BJP wins, it would select a Backward Class CM, as reported by Sreenivas Janyala.
In Rajasthan, Shah will hold rallies in three constituencies – Kuchaman, Makrana and Parbatsar – and attend a ‘chaupal’ meeting in Bidiyad village on Tuesday. But elsewhere in the state, Congress CM Ashok Gehlot is launching its ‘Guarantee Yatra’ on Tuesday. Through the yatra, which will pass through 140 Assembly constituencies and cover 4,400 km over 12 days, the party will promote its seven poll guarantees – ranging from annual grants to women heads of families and subsidised LPG cylinders to the reinstatement of the Old Pension Scheme. Apart from Gehlot, party president Mallikarjun Kharge, MP Rahul Gandhi and general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will join the yatra.
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But before she heads to Rajasthan, Priyanka will campaign in Chhattisgarh on Tuesday in the Balod and Kurud constituencies, where two women are contesting for the Congress in the second phase.
Away from the poll fray, the Bihar Assembly will continue its Winter Session on Tuesday, with the government expected to table the contentious caste survey amid criticism from the BJP, including Shah, who alleged on Sunday that the population of Yadavs and Muslims were inflated in the survey as part of the CM Nitish Kumar-led Grand Alliance government’s “appeasement politics”.
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– With PTI inputs