The BJP suffered a humiliating defeat in the by-election for Ratlam (ST) Lok Sabha constituency on Tuesday in a high-stakes battle that had captured the nation’s attention after the BJP’s defeat in Bihar.
The largely tribal constituency spread over Jhabua, Alirajpur and Ratlam districts was won by the BJP for the first time ever in 2014 when the Narendra Modi wave swept through the country.
Congress candidate and former Union minister Kantilal Bhuria’s victory with a margin of over 88800 votes, will personally hurt Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan who camped in the constituency and addressed numerous rallies along with several ministers and party leaders.
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“It’s a myth that the constituency elects only a Congress leader and we will definitely prove it wrong,’’ Chouhan had said during the rallies. However, despite frequent visits by the CM to the poll-bound districts, the BJP appeared to have sensed the inevitable, especially after intelligence reports that gave the Congress a clear chance.
Accusing the chief minister of taking voters for a ride, the upbeat former union minister said the result will mark the beginning of end of Chouhan’s term in Madhya Pradesh. In 2014, the veteran Congress leader had lost by a margin of more than one lakh votes to Dilip Singh Bhuria, whose death on June 24 necessitated the by-election.
The BJP fielded Petlawad MLA and Dilip Singh Bhuria’s daughter Nirmala who proved no match to the former PCC chief—the latter has won this seat four times in the past. Dilip Singh was himself a Congressman and had won the seat five times before losing to Kantilal. Dilip Singh then switched loyalties to the BJP.
Buoyed by the Bihar verdict, the Congress was hoping for its revival in the state where it has suffered a series of electoral reverses. After a long time, the opposition party got its act together by roping in its state leadership.
The crushing defeat in Ratlam made the BJP’s victory in Devas assembly by-election a non-event.
BJP’s Gayatri Raje Puar defeated Congress’s Jaiprakash Shastri by 30,778 votes.
In the 2013 assembly elections her husband Tukoji Rao Puar, whose death caused the by-election, had won by a bigger margin of more than 50,000 votes.
Gayatri Raje’s victory in her maiden election had been taken for granted even by the Congress that had focused its energy on Ratlam (ST). Besides migration of people in search of jobs and an agrarian crisis, the parliamentary constituency also witnessed an explosion in Petlawad that took scores of lives.