Chief Minister Raman Singh and 189 others will be in the fray for 18 seats in the first phase of Chhattisgarh Assembly polls to be held on November 12.
Eighteen constituencies, spread across eight naxal-affected districts, will go to polls in the first phase, a public relation officer of the office of state Chief Electoral Officer said on Saturday.
"As many as 421 candidates had filed their nominations for the first phase, but papers of only 231 aspirants were found valid in the scrutiny. Of them, 41 candidates withdrew their nominations, leaving 190 in the fray," he said.
The son of former leader of opposition late Mahendra Karma, Chhavindra Karma, who had filed his nomination as an independent candidate from Dantewada (ST) seat from where his mother Devti Karma is a Congress nominee, withdrew from the election.
The first phase of voting will cover Antagarh, Bhanupratappur, Kanker, Kondagaon, Narayanpur, Bastar, Jagdalpur, Keshkal, Chitrakot, Dantewada, Bijapur, Konta, Khairagarh, Dongargarh, Rajnandgaon, Dongargaon, Khujji and Mohla-Manpur seats.
The highest number of 30 candidates will lock horns in Rajnandgaon constituency, while the lowest number of five candidates will fight it out in Bastar and Kondagaon seats each.
The keenly-watched constituency will be Rajnandgaon, where CM Raman Singh of the ruling BJP and Congress candidate Karuna Shukla, niece of former Prime Minister late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, are in the fray.
The ruling BJP has reposed its faith in old faces and fielded two incumbent ministers- Mahesh Gagda (Bijapur), Kedar Kashyap (Narayanpur); sitting MLAs- Santosh Bafna (Jagdalpur), Sarojani Banjare (Dongargarh) and those who had lost the 2013 polls- Lata Usendi (Kondgaon), Subhau Kashyap (Bastar), Komal Janghel (Khairagarh), Bhima Mandavi (Dantewada) and Dhaniram Barse (Konta).
The Congress has renominated its nine sitting legislators- Manoj Singh Mandavi (Bhanupratappur), Mohan Lal Markam (Kondagaon), Lakheshwar Baghel (Bastar), Deepak Kumar Baij (Chitrakot), Devati Karma (Dantewada), Kawasi Lakhma (Konta), Girwar Janghel (Khairagarh), Daleshwar Sahu (Dongargaon) and Santram Netam (Keshkal).
Of the 18 seats going to polls in the first phase, 12 are reserved for Scheduled Tribes (ST) while one for Scheduled Caste (SC) category.
The stakes are very high for the ruling BJP on these 18 seats, as it had lost 12 of them in the last polls in 2013.
In the last assembly polls, of the total 90 seats, BJP had won 49 seats, Congress 39, BSP 1 and independent 1.
The remaining 72 constituencies will go to polls on November 20. The counting of the votes will be held on December 11.
This time, the coalition between Mayawati-led BSP, former chief minister Ajit Jogi's JCC (J) and Communist Party of India (CPI) has added another dimension to the electoral politics of Chhattisgarh, which has always been dominated by the ruling BJP and opposition Congress.
( With inputs from PTI )