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Congress, Maoist clash in Dantewada benefited BJP
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December 09, 2008 11:53 IST
It was the clash between Maoists and Mahendra Karma, the Congress's leader of opposition in Chhattisgarh, which led to the "unexpected" bloom of the lotus in the 'red zone' of Dantewada.

More than Congress legislator Karma's loss, it's the victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party's Bheema Mandavi which surprises many; for, the Communist Party of India's candidate Manish Kunjam's anti-Salwa Judum campaign in Dantewada had made the latter a favourite among the rural masses. Kunjam had seemed a sure winner in case Karma fell from grace.

Mandavi's chances were considered bleak after two important leaders of the saffron party were killed by Maoists in the same constituency a few days prior to the polls.

Despite the odds against him, Mandavi's victory margin was quite impressive. He secured a total of 36,813 votes, which accounted for 38.06 per cent of the total 96,722 valid votes cast. Kunjam got 24,805 (25.65 per cent), and Karma received 24,250 (25.07 per cent votes) in his favour.

The Maoists antipathy towards Karma, architect of the Salwa Judum movement in the state, goes back a long way and the ultras had made it clear from the very beginning that they will leave no stone unturned to ensure that Karma loses this election.

Karma, too, in his election meetings made it clear that his contest is not with any political party but with the Maoists.

A group of villagers had launched a movement -- Salwa Judum -- against Maoists in the Naxal-infested Bijapur. Karma was in the forefront of the movement which was later backed by the BJP government as well.

Consequently, it appeared quite tough for Karma to retain the seat from the very beginning with the situation in the 'red zone' Dantewada having changed drastically since the last election.

Meanwhile, first-timer Mandavi's chances of being included in the council of ministers of the soon to be formed government by the BJP, which has secured a majority in the 90-member House, has brightened. Defeating two political bigwigs like Karma and Kunjam would be considered no mean feat on Mandavi's part.

For Kunjam this is the third consecutive defeat; he has already defeated twice from the nearby Konta assembly segment.

Dantewada has earlier been a bastion of both Karma and the Congress since long. Karma had won the seat thrice � two times consecutively on Congress tickets in 1998 (in undivided Madhya Pradesh [Images]) and in 2003 in the first assembly elections of Chhattisgarh state. He had also won the seat in 1980 on a CPI ticket. In between, the Congress kept winning the seat with different candidates.

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