AIADMK general secretary J Jayalalithaa cemented her position as Tamil Nadu's chief minister with a thumping election win, as ruling parties emerged victors on Tuesday in bypolls held across five states.
The 67-year-old picked up the RK Nagar seat in Chennai as she beat CPI rival C Mahendran by a record margin of over 150,000 votes, fulfilling the constitutional requirement of getting elected as MLA within six months of becoming chief minister.
Supporters celebrate as Jayalalithaa wins big in RK Nagar bypoll
Jayalalithaa was forced to quit the post in September after being convicted of amassing illegal wealth as a Bengaluru court sentenced her to four years in jail and slapped a fine of Rs 100 crore last year.
But the Karnataka high court overturned the trial court order last month and cleared her of all charges in the graft case, paving the way for her return.
Supporters thumped drums, distributed sweets and danced on the streets amid bursting firecrackers with the area around Jayalalithaa's Poes Garden residence in Chennai the epicentre of celebrations.
The chief minister's victory was a foregone conclusion in the by-election that was necessitated following AIADMK's P Vetrivel vacating the seat in May so his party chief could seek re-election.
"It is a historic win, I assure that I will tirelessly work to fulfil the voters' expectations, and needs," Jayalalithaa said.
K S Sabarinadhan,31, of the ruling Congress won from the Aruvikkara constituency in Kerala, a seat that was held for about 24 years by his father, G Karthikeyan, who served as Speaker in the assembly till he died in March. He then dedicated his win to his father.
"For 24 years my father represented this constituency and the electorate gave this win for the work he did," Sabarinathan said.
"This victory is also for the agenda of chief minister Oommen Chandy whose 'development and care' work has been accepted," he added.
There were a total of 16 candidates in the fray and 184,210 voters -- up from 164,884 in 2011 when Karthikeyan won by over 10,000 votes. The turnout was at 70%.
Chief minister Oomen Chandy termed the victory a clear indication of the Congress-led alliance coming to power in the assembly elections next year and attacked the Opposition for allegations that his party bought the win by splurging money made through corrupt deals and liquor distribution.
CPI-M politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan said the victory of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in the state happened because they broke all election rules.
"They misused their office to win this election. This loss will help us to regroup and come together and work even harder for the upcoming local body election later this year," said Vijayan.
More good news came in for the Congress from Meghalaya, where the ruling party's Bluebell Sangma snatched the Chokpot assembly seat from the Garo National Council (GNC).
The CPI(M) won the two assembly seats in Tripura that went to the polls by big margins, but the BJP made inroads into the Left bastion, dislodging the Congress from second position in the north-eastern state.
"We knew that we would not be able to win the by-elections this time, but expected more votes and better results," said state BJP president Sudhindra Dasgupta. "But we are sure that we will win in the next assembly elections to be held in 2018 and capture power to give better governance."
The BJP defeated the Congress in an important by-election in Madhya Pradesh, but its victory margin dwindled with the ruling party embroiled in a massive corruption scam.
State Congress leader KK Mishra termed the BJP's win in the Garoth bypoll as a "moral defeat" for the saffron party, while accusing it of misusing official machinery to secure a victory.