The BJP won comfortably in the Dholpur bypoll where it had fielded the wife of the previous BSP MLA, more than doubling its vote share in the process — from 27 per cent to 62. The BSP, which had polled 38 per cent in 2013, did not contest the bypoll. The Congress, which improved from 31 per cent to 36, accused Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje of misusing the state government machinery for winning the poll.
The bypoll was necessitated by BSP MLA B L Kushwaha’s conviction in a murder case. His wife Shobharani, the BJP candidate , won by over 38,000 votes, polling 91,548 votes against Congress candidate Banwari Lal Sharma’s 52,875. The remaining 13 candidates lost their security deposits.
Sharma, a five-time MLA, is an old rival of Raje, having lost to her in 1985 and defeated her in a 1995 bypoll. He was runner-up in 2013, too, when Kushwaha won. While accepting the people’s mandate, the Congress also attributed it to a “spillover effect” from the BJP’s recent victory in Uttar Pradesh, which borders Dholpur, besides accusing Chief Minister Raje for misusing government machinery.
“We accept the verdict of the people and will work harder now for next year’s assembly elections,” Rajasthan PCC president Sachin Pilot told The Indian Express after the defeat. “We did not lose to the BJP, we lost to the government of Rajasthan. The full government machinery, including administration, police, all senior party ministers and even the chief minister had been camping in Dholpur. The CM was there even on voting day,” he said.
“This election was not about development or governance. Had Dholpur been developed, the BJP wouldn’t have had to go with the wife of the ex-BSP MLA whose conviction necessitated the bypoll.”
Rajasthan BJP president Ashok Parnami said: “It’s a historic win. The people of Dholpur voted for development, discarding casteism and nepotism. Dholpur has had Congress MLAs for 50 years, yet the area saw no development.”
The bypoll was a high-stakes contest, especially for the BJP and CM Raje, with the town being her home turf and the site of her political debut in 1985.