Bhopal, Oct 24 (IANS) Victory in the by-elections in the tribal belt of Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh and Chitrakote in Chhattisgarh has given the Congress some reason to cheer after the humiliating show in the Lok Sabha election.
Kantilal Bhuria of Congress won the Jhabua ST seat defeating Bhanu Bhuria of BJP by over 27,000 votes and Rajman Benzam won the bypoll from the Naxal-affected Chitrakote constituency, reserved ST seat by 17,862 votes against Lachhuram Kashyap of the BJP.
Bhuria, former PCC chief and former Union minister sustained the lead right through the 25 rounds of counting. Bhanu Bhuria who headed the youth wing of the BJP fought gamely. Bhanu, however, said the Congress won the election with ample help from the administration. The Congress workers had done little to deserve any credit, especially after two successive defeats of the father and son duo in a span of six months.
Jhabua exposed the cracks in both the Congress and the BJP.
The Jyotiraditya Scindia faction which has been at odds with Kantilal Bhuria wanted a previous MLA Xavier Meda to be fielded at Jhabua. Former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh and Chief Minister Kamal Nath, however, insisted on Kantilal who had just lost the Lok Sabha elections to G.S. Damor in May. Damor had also defeated Kantilal Bhuria’s son Vikrant in the Assembly elections in November last. Considering that it was strange that Congress should have insisted on Bhuria senior.
Scindia never campaigned in Jhabua through the past one month. The ruling faction got Meda to propose Bhuria’s name as a candidate and campaign for him. The BJP’s campaign also looked lacklustre and purposeless. The state BJP chief Rakesh Singh, former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and the leader of the opposition in the Assembly Gopal Bhargava between them made nearly 20 trips to Jhabua. Bhargava kept making statements that forced the election commission to book him for provocative campaign.
Kantilal Bhura has won the Lok Sabha elections five times and has also been a Cabinet minister in Madhya Pradesh. So, why is the Congress overjoyed over his election as an MLA now? At the party level the factionalism seems to be one of the reasons.
Secondly, the party that was one seat short of touching the halfway mark in the Assembly has done that with Bhuria’s win. At 115 seats the Congress just needs one member’s support from outside for majority. There are four independents, two BSP and one Samajwadi Party member backing Kamal Nath’s ministry.
The BJP which has 108 members will need some solid work to dislodge the MP government. There is talk about Bhuria also being handed the mantle of the PCC chief again. He had been the PCC chief from 2011 to 2013 before being forced to quit in the wake of the party’s defeat in the Assembly elections in 2013.
He also lost the 2014 Lok Sabha election with the factionalism in the party at its peak. In any case he did not need to be elected as legislator to be the PCC chief. His appointment as PCC chief could widen the rift between the Scindia faction and the rest.
The ruling Congress’ victory in Chitrakote Assembly bypoll in Chhattisgarh on Thursday, came less than a month after the Dantewada result. Congress candidate Devti Karma had won the by-poll in Dantewada on September 23 defeating BJP’s Ojasvi Mandavi.
Benzam polled 62,097 votes while Kashyap secured 44,235 votes at Chitrakote. With this the BJP has been wiped out of the tribal divisions of Sarguja and Bastar. The party held all 12 seats till the previous Assembly elections.
The bypoll to Chitrakot was caused by the resignation of Congress MLA Deepak Bais who was elected to the Lok Sabha from Bastar. The BJP had nurtured the tribal region of Bastar since the 1970s in its avatar as Jana Sangh.
Tribal leader Mohan Markam who has recently taken charge as the PCC chief said the Congress fought the elections with the right spirit backing its grass root level workers who had to convince the voters about many fallacies spread by the BJP during the past 15 years.
Last month the BJP had lost Dantewada Assembly bypoll to the Congress. It took BJP’s strength in the 90-member Chhattisgarh assembly to 14, while the ruling Congress’ numbers went up to 69.