The Congress candidate has been maintaining a significant lead by a margin of over 15,000 votes in the Khairagarh Assembly bypoll, where the counting was underway on Saturday, officials said.
Both the ruling Congress and opposition BJP are eyeing victory in the constituency, which falls in naxal-hit Rajnandgaon district, where by-election was necessitated after Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) MLA and former MP Devvrat Singh died in November last year.
“The counting of votes in the bypoll held on April 12 in Khairagarh seat, which began at 8 am at the godown of the state seeds development corporation here, was smoothly underway,” a poll official said.
After the 15th round of counting, Yashoda Verma of the Congress was leading by a margin of 15,633 votes against his nearest rival Komal Janghel of the BJP after three rounds of counting, he said.
The voter turnout in the bypoll for the seat located in state’s naxal-affected Rajnandgaon district, was 77.88 per cent.
Postal ballots were first taken up for counting followed by votes cast in the EVMs, the official said, adding the entire process will go on 14 tables in 21 rounds.
Ten contestants are in the fray, but the political commentators feel this time the fight is virtually between the ruling Congress and opposition BJP, as the JCC (J) has lost its appeal after the demise of Ajit Jogi in 2020.
Devvrat Singh, who belonged to the erstwhile royal family of Khairagarh, quit the Congress in 2017 and joined former JCC (J) the next year. He contested the 2018 Assembly polls on the JCC(J) ticket from Khairagarh. He defeated BJP candidate Janghel by a narrow margin of 870 votes.
This time, the BJP has once again fielded Janghel, a former MLA, for the bypoll, while Verma, the Khairagarh block unit chief of Congress, is the ruling party’s nominee. Janghel and Verma both belong to the Lodhi caste, a numerically powerful OBC community in the Khairagarh area.
However, stakes are high for the ruling Congress, as it is fighting to retain this seat which was once considered as its bastion. The Congress has promised the people to make Khairagarh a district if it wins the seat.
In the 2018 Assembly polls, the Congress registered a landslide victory winning 68 seats in the 90-member House decimating the BJP to 15. The JCC (J) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had bagged five and two seats respectively. Subsequently, the state witnessed bypolls to three Assembly seats, which were won by the Congress, improving its tally to 70 in the Assembly.