Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi were in Chhattisgarh on Friday to step up the last lap of campaigning ahead of Monday's first phase of polls. Maoist attacks, tribal issues, demonetisation and PDS scams were the main talking points as Modi and Gandhi addressed rallies at Jagdalpur and Kanker, respectively.
Gandhi, who will be camping in Chhattisgarh for two days on Friday and Saturday ahead of the elections, was the first to arrive in the poll-bound state. Unleashing an attack on the economic policies of the NDA government at the Centre, Gandhi continued his criticism on demonetisation. "All of you were standing in long queues during demonetisation but not one black money holder was seen. Also, Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya, Lalit Modi and Mehul Choksi ran away from the country with your money," he charged. Gandhi also raked up the the PDS scam that rattled the Raman Singh-led government a couple of years ago.
In 2015, the Raman Singh government got embroiled in a controversy for his alleged involvement in a Rs 36,000-crore scam in a scheme for supplying rice through the public distribution system.
Meanwhile, PM Modi invoked the Maoist issue to step up his attack on the Congress. "The Congress backs urban Maoists driving big cars. A brave and innocent cameraman from Doordarshan, Achutyanand Sahu, was killed by the Maoists. Recently our valiant jawans were also martyred in an encounter with Maoists and for the Congress party these Maoists are revolutionaries? What sort of vocabulary is this?" he said. "The Congress uses dalits for votes. I once visited northeast, the tribal people there made me wear a traditional headgear out of love and respect. I took pride in wearing that, but the Congress made fun of that," Modi said.
The first phase of Assembly polls on November 12 will see 18 seats of eight Maoist-affected districts go to polls. Of these, 12 are Scheduled Tribe seats while one is a Scheduled Caste-reserved seat. The ruling BJP had lost 12 of the 18 seats in the 2013 assembly polls.
The remaining 72 constituencies will witness polling on November 20 and counting of votes will be held on December 11. A total of 1,291 candidates are in the fray for the two-phased state polls.
In the 2013 Assembly polls, the BJP had won 49 seats, Congress 39, BSP 1 and Independent 1 in the 90-member House.