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Had Tata Steel land issue cast shadow on Chhattisgarh's Chitrakot by-poll?

The Congress government has returned the land acquired for steel project to tribals in the constituency

R Krishna Das  |  Raipur 

Representative Image
Representative Image

If the heavy turn out in the Chhattisgarh's Chitrakot assembly by-election is any indication, Congress government's decision to return the land acquired for plant has emerged as one of the major issues.

The constituency in restive Bastar region went to the mid-term poll on Monday. It was necessitated after Congress' sitting legislator Deepak Baij got elected to the Lok Sabha. Famous across the globe for waterfall, Chitrakot also came to limelight in June 2005 when inked an agreement with BJP government for setting a steel plant with an investment of around Rs 195 billion in the constituency.

The local administration acquired about 75 per cent of the land and paid compensation of Rs 42.07 crore to 1165 of the 1707 affected farmers. required 2160.58 hectares of land for the project that was mired in controversy following protest from the tribals against the land acquisition. In May 2016, Tata Steel abandoned the plan.

Ahead of 2018 state polls, Congress announced to return the land to the farmers if voted to power. The party received an overwhelming response as it bagged 11 out of 12 seats in Bastar including Chitrakot. Soon after coming to power, the Congress government started the process.

“The issue of returning land to the tribals was one of the major factors in the by-poll and people, specially from the affected villages came out to vote in large number,” Rajendra Vajpayee, a political observer in Jagdalpur, said. The heavy polling indicated electorates’ tilt towards the Congress with land issue at the centre, he added.

The polling percentage is likely to cross 85 per cent while it was 81 per cent in the last poll. Officially, over 72 per cent polling was recorded when the last figure came in at 4 pm. The officials said the final figure would be known by Tuesday afternoon as a few parties deployed in the sensitive Maoist-infested pockets would return only in the morning.

First Published: Mon, October 21 2019. 19:40 IST