BJP CANDIDATE Devendra Verma on Thursday won the by-election to the Pandhana assembly seat in Khandwa district, defeating his nearest Congress rival Hiralal Silawat by a margin of 11,948 votes.
Verma polled 45,459 votes and Hiralal Silawat 33,475 votes. Bharatiya Janshakti party candidate Vasudev Atut lost his deposit. He came in a distant third with 12,629 votes. Navneeth Gajbhiye of the GGP polled 1607 votes and Umashankar Verma (independent) 2922 votes.
The polling was held on December 4. The by-election was necessitated after Devendra Verma’s father Kishorilal Verma and his wife were murdered about a month and half back.
The counting began at 8 am and within an hour it became apparent that Verma was going to win as he led by over 8000 votes, and the joyous BJP workers started bursting crackers and beating drums. Soon after the results were officially declared, the BJP took out a rally in the constituency.
Verma, flanked by Khandwa MP Nand Kumar Singh Chauhan and BJP district president Lokendra Tomar, rode in an open jeep in the constituency. While joyous BJP workers threw garlands and flowers at him, a smiling Verma thanked everyone with folded hands.
However, none of the ministers – like Rustam Singh, Vijay Shah, Kailash Vijayvargiya, Gangaram Patel - who had campaigned vigorously for Verma’s success were present in the procession. Most had either left for Bhopal or their home constituencies.
Verma talking to the media profusely thanked the voters and promised that he would fulfil all the promises he and his father had made to the people of the constituency. He said with the support of the local MP Nand Kumar Singh Chauhan and the blessing of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, he would start numerous development work in the area. Neither of the two defeated candidates were available for comments.
When Hiralal Silawat was contacted over phone, one of his family members said he was sleeping. Clearly, he did not wish to be disturbed. However, Congress district president Ajay Ojha said the Congress candidate lost due to misuse of official machinery.
Vasudev Atut’s mobile was switched off. Even state Congress president Subhash Yadav could not be contacted. The only consolation for the Congress was that they had reduced the defeat margin from the last election.
While in the 2003 election Hiralal Silawat had lost by a margin of 16,820 votes to Devendra Verma’s father Kishorilal Verma, this time Silawat lost by 11,948 votes. However, from the voting percentage angle, the Congress defeat was much worse this time. While in the 2003 elections, Silawat had polled 37.62 per cent of the votes and this time he could manage only 34.83 per cent.
The share of votes for the BJP has also come down. In 2003 elections Kishorilal had polled 53.67 per cent of the votes, but this time his son only got 47.3 per cent. Apparently, BJS candidate Atut ate into the votes of both the candidates.
The win comes as shot in the arm for Shivraj Singh Chouhan who had campaigned vigorously for the party candidate in view of his archrival Uma Bharti also being a star campaigner for her party candidate. That Uma Bharti’s candidate lost his deposit is a blow to the prospects of the party.
Party observers say that this victory will boost Chouhan’s stature especially after the twin victories in the Bada Malhera and Vidisha by-elections last month. However for the Congress and its state president Subhash Yadav the defeat — Pandhana is considered his home turf — is a major setback and may intensify demands from his own part for his ouster.