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Amid ruins, Cong captures Godhra
Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Ahmedabad
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December 23, 2007 15:34 IST
Last Updated: December 23, 2007 16:14 IST

Standing amidst the ruins, the Congress party in Gujarat has a reason to cheer -- it has won the Godhra constituency.

Congress candidate C K Raul defeated Bharatiya Janata Party nominee and state minister Prabhat Sinh Chauhan in Godhra by 14,500 votes.

In the 2002 election, the seat was won by Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Haren Bhatt, who has since fallen out with Chief Minister Narendra Modi [Images] and was not given a ticket this time.

Bhatt had then defeated sitting Congress MLA Rajendra Patel. A native of Ahmedabad, he was given a ticket at the behest of VHP leader Pravin Togadia, then a close friend of Modi.

He was seen boasting about killing Muslims in the Tehelka sting telecast nationally in October.

Modi and Togadia are now bitter adversaries.

Chauhan won the Kalol constituency in 2002 but was told to contest from Godhra this election.

The arson at Godhra on February 27, 2002, where 58 people -- mostly kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya -- were killed in a fire on the Sabarmati Express train provoked the horrific 2002 riots in Gujarat, in which over 1,000 people were brutally killed.

In the December 2002 assembly election, the BJP won all seven districts in the Panchmahal region, where the Congress once had a strong presence.

Explaining his party's victory, Manish Doshi, the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee spokesperson, felt "The BJP did not put up a good candidate."

One big issue in Godhra this election was the Rs 120 crore (Rs 1.2 billion) scam detected at Panchmahal's district cooperative bank in 2003, leading to huge losses for the region's farmers. Chauhan, the losing BJP candidate, was then the bank's vice-president.

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