The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has reposed faith in most of its sitting MLAs for the upcoming Chhattisgarh assembly polls and it has given tickets to 14 leaders who lost the last state elections in 2013.
In its first list released Saturday, 77 candidates were announced out of the total 90 seats in the state. The BJP has given tickets to 32 sitting MLAs, including 11 serving ministers.
Chhattisgarh Assembly Elections 2018: Congress announces first list of 12 candidates for 1st phase of polls
It has denied ticket to only one minister -- Ramsheela Sahu, who is an MLA from the Durg rural seat.
The two-phase state polls will be held on November 12 and 20.
"The party leadership has tried to give representation to all sections of society by allocating 14 seats to women candidates, 25 seats to youths (below 40 years) and 53 seats to candidates from agriculture background," BJP's state general secretary Santosh Pandey told PTI.
The sitting MLAs and leaders, who had lost in 2013 polls, have been given tickets in view of their work in respective areas, he said.
When asked if banking on "old faces" may harm the BJP's prospects, Pandey rejected such a view.
Pandey said the party has set a target of winning 65 plus seats this time and "we are confident of achieving it".
Chief Minister Raman Singh will contest from his Rajnandgaon seat, while Assembly Speaker Gaurishankar Agrawal has been nominated from his Kasdol segment.
The ministers who have been given tickets are -- Brijmohan Agrawal (Raipur south), Rajesh Munat (Raipur west), Amar Agrawal (Bilaspur), Bhaiyalal Rajwade (Baikunthpur), Ramsevak Paikra (Pratappur), Punnulal Mohle (Mungeli), Kedar Kashyap (Narayanpur), Mahesh Gagda (Bijapur), Prem Prakash Pandey (Bhilai Nagar), Dayaldas Baghel (Nawagarh) and Ajay Chandrakar (Kurud).
In 2013, then five state ministers, including Nankiram Kanwar, Lata Usendi, who headed the women and child development department, and Chandrashekhar Sahu, who was the agriculture minister, had lost the polls.
Despite losing the election last time, Usendi and Sahu have been nominated from Kondagaon and Abhanpur seats, respectively. Former home minister Nankiram Kanwar, who lost the previous poll from Rampur seat, has also been nominated.
State BJP chief Dharamlal Kaushik, who was assembly speaker during the 2008-2013 term and had lost the poll last time from Bilha seat, has been given a ticket.
The other leaders who have been nominated despite losing the previous poll are -- Rajni Tripathi (Bhatgaon), Siddhnath Paikra (Samri), Vijaynath Singh Baba (Lundra), Anurag Singhdeo (Ambikapur), Narayan Chandel (Janjgir-Champa), Nande Sahu (Raipur Rural), Komal Janghel (Khairagarh), Bhima Mandavi (Dantewada seat), Dhaniram Barse (Konta) and Krishnamurti Bandhi (Masturi).
Two BJP mayors -- Madhusudan Yadav from Rajnandgaon Municipal Corporation and Chandrika Chandrakar from Durg Municipal Corporation -- have also been fielded from Dongargaon and Durg city seats respectively, Pandey said.
Yadav was earlier an MP from the Rajnandgaon Lok Sabha constituency from 2009 to 2014.
Kanker Lok Sabha MP Vikram Usendi, who had been an MLA from Antagarh assembly seat in the past, has been nominated from the same seat, replacing incumbent party MLA Bhojraj Nag.
Vikas Mahto, son of BJP MP from Korba Lok Sabha constituency Banshilal Mahto, has been fielded from Korba assembly seat, which is considered a Congress bastion.
Former IAS officer O P Chaudhary, who recently quit as Raipur collector and joined the BJP, has been fielded from Kharsia.
The BJP has given good representation to Sahus in the first list, by nominating 10 candidates of the Other Backward Class (OBC) community.
The first phase of polling will cover 18 seats across eight naxal-affected districts -- Bastar, Bijapur, Dantewada, Sukma, Kondagaon, Kanker, Narayanpur and Rajnandgaon.
The remaining 72 constituencies will go to polls in the second phase on November 20.
The main Opposition Congress has so far announced 12 candidates for seats in the Bastar division.
In the 2013 polls, the BJP had won 49 seats, the Congress 39, while the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and an independent bagged a seat each.
The vote percentage difference between the BJP and the Congress was less than one per cent.
This time, the tie-up of the Mayawati-led BSP and former chief minister Ajit Jogi's Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) is likely to add another dimension to the state elections.