Setback to Raje as Congress trumps BJP in Rajasthan bypolls, Trinamool wins in Bengal
In Rajasthan, the BJP saw a strong swing against it while in West Bengal the party leapfrogged the CPI(M) to second place.india Updated: Feb 02, 2018 00:53 IST
The Congress snatched two Lok Sabha and one assembly seat from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in high-stakes bypoll fights in Rajasthan on Thursday, delivering a jolt to chief minister Vasundhara Raje ahead of state elections later this year.
The Congress won the Alwar and Ajmer Lok Sabha seats by 196,496 and 84,414 votes respectively. In the Mandalgarh assembly seat, the Congress won by almost 13,000 votes. Despite a high-voltage campaign led by the CM, the BJP couldn’t take the lead in any of the 17 assembly segments.
“Well done Rajasthan Congress! Proud of each and every one of you. This is a rejection of the BJP by the people of Rajasthan,” Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted.
In West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress won thumping victories in the Noapara assembly and the Uluberia Lok Sabha seat but the spotlight was stolen by the BJP, which leapfrogged the CPI(M) to second place and increased its voteshare in both seats.
In contrast in Rajasthan, the BJP saw a strong swing against it and failed even in urban areas, considered a party stronghold where the Congress scripted a revival.
Raje had led the campaign and ministers along with party workers, booth-level operatives and local functionaries were deputed but appeared to have failed in the face of massive infighting and anger among farmers, Rajputs and government workers.
“Our efforts shall continue and we will keep the welfare of the people of Rajasthan at the forefront,” Raje tweeted.
The defeats will raise more questions about the leadership of Raje, who is battling rising cow vigilante attacks, protests by farmers, doctors strike and resentment over low hikes in government salaries. In addition, the dominant Rajput community is angry with the BJP over the recently released Bollywood film Padmaavat, which they feel insults them.
Sources said changes at the organisation level are expected as the party will try to stem the rising resentment against it. State BJP president Ashok Parnami said as much as a press conference on Thursday evening, stating that the party would remove shortcomings.
The results will buoy the Congress, which won just 21 seats in the last assembly elections and drew a blank in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
“The bypoll result clearly shows the undercurrent…what people think… In this bypoll not just rural, urban and farmers supported the party, but the youth, which was misguided by BJP, came with Congress,” said Congress state chief Sachin Pilot, who led the campaign.
The party had performed well in the local body elections last year and Thursday’s showing will boost Pilot, himself a former MP from Ajmer.
In West Bengal’s Uluberia Lok Sabha seat, the Trinamool won by a margin of around 474,000 with 61% of the vote and the BJP came second with 23%. The ruling party’s votes rose by about 200,000 while that of the BJP by around 160,000. Crucial rural polls in the state are scheduled this summer.
“The results prove people have voted overwhelmingly for the waves of development that Mamata Banerjee unleashed,” said Trinamool secretary general Partha Chatterjee.
The gains came at the expense of the CPI(M) and the Congress, which is set to lose its deposit. Uluberia comprises Dhulagarh, where communal clashes in December 2016 helped the BJP launch a high-pitched campaign. In the Noapara assembly seat, the saffron party cornered 38,711 votes, 15,132 more than what it got in the 2016 assembly polls. The Trinamool candidate won by around 63,000 votes.
“The results prove CPI(M) and Congress are non-existent in Bengal and BJP is the only alternative to Trinamool. The results will only improve with time,” said BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha, who was also a former president of Bengal BJP.