The Congress on Sunday retained the Chitrakoot assembly constituency in Madhya Pradesh with its candidate winning the seat in a bypoll with an improved margin of over 14,000 votes.
In the 2013 assembly polls, the party had won the seat with a margin of 10,970 votes.
Congress’s Nilanshu Chaturvedi defeated his nearest rival, Shankar Dayal Tripathi of the Bharatiya Janata Party, by 14,133 votes in the bypoll which was held on November 9, returning officer A P Dwivedi said.
Chaturvedi polled 66,810 votes, while Tripathi had to be content with 52,677 votes. As many as 2,455 votes were polled under the ‘none of the above’ category.
The counting of votes began around 8 am amid a tight security in Satna district.
Around 65 per cent voting was recorded in the bypoll, which was necessitated in the Assembly segment following the death of its Congress MLA Prem Singh.
Singh had won from Chitrakoot, bordering Uttar Pradesh, in the 1998, 2003 and 2013 state Assembly polls. In 2008, he had lost the seat to BJP’s Surendra Singh Gaharwar.
Though 12 candidates were in the fray, the main contest in the bypoll was between Chaturvedi and Tripathi.
Accepting the defeat, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and BJP leader Shivraj Singh Chouhan tweeted saying public mandate was supreme in democracy.
“I thank the people for their support. Nothing will come in the way of Chitrakoot’s development. My aim is to develop entire Madhya Pradesh,” the tweet further read.
Congress workers celebrated the victory by bursting crackers outside the party’s state headquarters, Indira Bhawan in Bhopal, whereas the state BJP headquarters, Deendayal Parishad, wore a deserted look.
As per the Hindu mythology, during his exile, Lord Rama had spent almost 12 years in the forests of Chitrakoot with wife Sita and brother Laxmana.
The BJP had invoked Lord Rama during its campaign for the bypoll.
After the bypoll victory, the jubilant Congress workers raised slogans such as “BJP ke lag gaye kam, jai shri Ram, jai shri Ram (the BJP is defeated, hail Lord Rama)”.
Asked about the saffron party invoking Lord Rama in the run-up to the bypoll, state Congress chief Arun Yadav told reporters that it was his party men, who were the true worshippers of the Hindu god.
“Lord Rama helps the honest and upright, not the corrupt,” he said.
Leader of Opposition in the Madhya Pradesh assembly Ajay Singh said, “The exile of the Congress in the state has ended from the ‘taposthali’ of Lord Rama. The party has won from areas where Chouhan held public meetings. The BJP candidate has been defeated from his own village as well as the village of his in-laws.”
In response to a query, Singh said the chief minister had made the Chitrakoot bypoll a prestige issue for himself.
“The poll results show that the people of the state want Chouhan’s exit now,” he added.
State BJP chief Nandkumar Singh Chauhan, however, played down the defeat in the bypoll saying the seat traditionally belonged to the Congress.
“This is one of the seats which traditionally belong to the Congress. However, in the 2008 election, BJP candidate Surendra Singh Gaharwar had won this seat.
“Chitrakoot does not reflect the mood of the entire state. We did expect to win. Now, we will review the poll outcome and find out the causes behind our defeat,” he said.
Image: Members of Congress celebrate outside MP Congress committee as its candidate Nilanshu Chaturvedi wins the bypoll. Photograph: ANI/Twitter