Kicking off the campaign for the decisive assembly elections ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi will be in Chhattisgarh to address separate rallies on Friday.
While PM Modi will address a rally in Bastar’s Jagdalpur, Gandhi will address a public meeting in Pakhanjore.
The high stakes addresses will mark the final leg of campaigning in the BJP-ruled state before polling begins on Monday.
Five states – Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Telangana – are going to the polls. MP and Mizoram will vote on November 28, Rajasthan and Telangana on December 7 while Chhattisgarh will vote in two phases on November 12 and 20. Results will be announced on December 11.
On Friday, Modi will address a rally in Bastar district’s headquarters, Jagdalpur, while Gandhi will tour the state for two days during which he will address five rallies and hold a road show in Chief Minister Raman Singh’s constituency, Rajnandgaon.
The prime minister is scheduled to arrive at Raipur airport at 11:20 am and take a helicopter to Jagdalpur. Following the rally, he will leave for Raipur at 2 pm and then return to Delhi, a state BJP spokesperson said on Thursday.
“This will be the PM’s first election rally for the state assembly polls. It will add power to the party’s campaign,” the spokesperson added.
Gandhi on Friday will address his first rally in Pakhanjore town of Kanker district at noon, followed by public meetings in Rajnandgaon district’s Khairgarh and Dongargarh towns, and a road show in Rajnandgaon, said head of Congress state communication wing Shailesh Nitin Trivedi.
He will put up at Rajnandgaon for the night and on Saturday, will address rallies in Charama (Kanker district) and Kondagaon, Trivedi said, adding that the Congress chief would also chair a meeting of party workers in Jagdalpur.
Raman Singh is also scheduled to hold a road show in Rajnandgaon on Friday evening. He is pitted against the Congress’s Karuna Shukla, niece of late prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The campaigning for the first phase will end on Saturday.
The first phase on November 12 will see 18 seats of eight Naxal-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 elections.
The remaining 72 constituencies will go to polls on November 20 and counting of votes will be held on December 11.
A total of1,291 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.
(With PTI inputs)