In its quest to end 15-year wait to rule Chhattisgarh, where elections are due next month, the Congress party seems to banking on a combination of new faces and old-timers in ticket distribution.
The grand-old party put out its third list of candidates on Saturday evening for 37 assembly seats going to polls in the second and last phase of voting on November 20. It has renominated 15 sitting MLAs and fielded 11 candidates, who had lost in 2013, besides giving tickets to 11 fresh faces.
No sitting MLA was denied ticket in the third list. However, only three women figure in it.
A Congress leader said the party is ensuring that representation is given to all sections of society.
"It is a completely balanced list wherein the party has given representation to leaders belonging to all sections of society," head of the state Congress communication wing Shailesh Nitin Trivedi claimed.
"The selection of candidates have been done on the basis of party's survey and performances of leaders," he said, adding it is a "well-planned strategy" to win the upcoming election.
The two lists released earlier contained 18 names.
With this, the opposition party has so far announced 55 candidates in the BJP-ruled state, which has a 90-member House.
State Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel (Patan seat), Congress Legislative Party leader T S Singhdeo (Ambikapur), senior Congress leader Satyanarayan Sharma (Raipur Rural) and prominent tribal leader Amarjeet Bhagat (Sitapur) were among the sitting MLAs who were given tickets.
In the last assembly polls, 26 Congress sitting MLAs, including prominent leaders like Rampukar Singh, Ravindra Choubey, Amitesh Shukla and Mohammad Akbar, had tasted defeat.
This time, Singh (Pathalgaon-ST), Shukla (Rajim), Akbar (Kawardha) and Choubey (Saja) have been repeated from their respective seats.
State Congress working president Shiv Kumar Dahariya, who had lost the previous election from Bilaigarh (SC) seat, has been fielded from Arang (SC) this time.
Similarly, Guru Rudra Kumar, who had lost the 2013 election from Arang, has been given ticket from Ahiwara (SC).
A popular young Congress leader, Vikas Upadhyay, who had lost to BJP minister Rajesh Munat from Raipur West last time by a margin of 6,160 votes, has been renominated from the seat. He will take on Munat again.
Among other leaders who have been given tickets despite losing the 2013 polls are: Premsai Tekam (Pratappur) and Pratima Chandrakar (Durg Rural).
Vinay Kumar Bhagat and Uttamdan Minj, who had lost the 2008 assembly election from Jashpur and Kunkuri, respectively, have been fielded from the same seats this time.
Vinay Jaiswal, an eye surgeon, Devendra Yadav, Ramkumar Yadav are among the fresh faces fielded by the party this time.
Bhilai Municipal Corporation Mayor Devendra Yadav, a youth leader, has been fielded from Bhilai Nagar seat, where he will take on state minister and sitting BJP MLA Premprakash Pandey.
Jaiswal will contest from Manendragarh. Ramkumar Yadav, a prominent farmer leader, had contested from Chandrapur constituency as Bahujan Samaj Party candidate in 2013 and finished runner-up.
He recently joined the Congress which has given him ticket from Chandrapur.
Voting in the state will be held in two phases — on November 12 and November 20 — and counting will take place on December 11.
The first phase covers 18 seats spread across eight naxal-affected districts — Bastar, Bijapur, Dantewada, Sukma, Kondagaon, Kanker, Narayanpur and Rajnandgaon. The remaining 72 seats will see polling on November 20.
The ruling BJP has so far announced 78 candidates.
In 2013, the BJP had won 49, the Congress 39, the BSP 1 and Independent 1.
The BJP is ruling the tribal-dominated state, which came into existence in November 2000, since 2003 under the leadership of Raman Singh.
(With PTI inputs)