Assembly polls: Rookie women take on mighty men of Chhattisgarh

Chhattisgarh electionsVani Rao campaigns in Bilaspur where she is pitted against Health Minister Amar Agarwal

While both the Congress and the BJP have together given just 25 of the total 180 tickets to women candidates, they have thrown a rookie challenge from constituencies considered bastions of powerful male leaders. At stake are the forts of the Chief Minister, a former chief minister and two powerful ministers. An electoral upset by these first-timer women will be decisive for government formation and a significant dent in vote share would mark a psychological victory. A look at who's pitted against whom.

Kiranmayee Nayak vs Brijmohan Agarwal (Raipur South)

PWD Minister Agarwal stands among the electoral giants in the state, with an unbroken victory streak for over two decades. He won the last two polls with around 25,000 votes. But Nayak, though a first-timer, is no pushover. The Raipur Mayor has considerable political and popular clout and visibility in the capital. The Congress, in fact, was planning to save this outspoken woman for the parliamentary polls next year and field her against the seemingly invincible BJP MP Ramesh Bais, who has won five consecutive and a total of six Lok Sabha elections in the last seven terms from Raipur. While Agarwal claims his margin will only increase this time, Nayak is aggressively campaigning against the corruption allegations he faces and is capable of a major upset. Both have already had a public showdown when their supporters clashed during a TV show last week.

Total voters: 2,04,757

Votes on November 19

Alka Mudaliyar vs Raman Singh (Rajnandgaon)

Alka got the ticket after her husband Uday Mudaliyar was killed in the Darbha attack. Although Uday had lost the 2008 polls against Singh, he was widely believed to be a tough opponent this time. While the sympathy wave was lost earlier, Alka is trying hard to revive it by door-to-door campaigning. What goes in her favour is her ability to establish personal contact with voters as she has already completed the first round of campaign through villages and is now fast catching up with urban areas. In contrast, Singh is yet to even begin regular campaign as he remains occupied with state-level management. Alka invokes her husband's martyrdom and stresses that her family remains with local people, while Singh is an "outsider". She may still not trump over Singh, but people say he will win not because he is the BJP candidate but because he is the chief minister. In 2008, Singh won by over 30,000 votes and if she is able to make it a tight contest or even dent the lead considerably, Congress says "it will be a huge psychological victory against the chief minister".

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