Mumbai: Results of three assembly bypolls on Wednesday brought cheer to the opposition Congress party in Madhya Pradesh and the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha.
The Congress retained the Mungaoli and Kolaras assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh. In Odisha, the BJD retained the Bijepur assembly seat.
All three Odisha and MP bypolls were necessitated by the death of sitting legislators from the Congress and BJD.
The Congress in Madhya Pradesh and the ruling BJD in Odisha described the results as an indication of things to come in Madhya Pradesh elections later this year and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
In Madhya Pradesh, the Congress said the defeat of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidates proved that chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s popularity was on the wane and the Congress was on the comeback trail.
In Mungaoli assembly seat in Madhya Pradesh, Congress candidate Brajendra Singh Yadav defeated his BJP rival Bai Saab Yadav by 2,124 votes. The BJP candidate, however, managed to reduce the Congress lead of 20,765 votes in the 2013 elections.
In the Kolaras seat, Congress candidate Mahendra Singh Yadav won by over 8,086 votes after 22 rounds of counting. Here too, in the 2013 assembly polls, Congress nominee Ram Singh Yadav had won by a comfortable margin of nearly 25,000 votes.
The victory comes as a shot in the arm for Congress leader and MP Jyotiraditya Scindia. Both Mungaoli and Kolaras assembly segments fall within his Guna Lok Sabha constituency and Scindia led his party’s campaign in the MP bypolls. For the BJP, Chouhan led from the front and also deployed a host of state cabinet ministers for the campaign.
In the process, the MP bypolls triggered a Chouhan versus Scindia face-off as the Congress member of parliament is widely seen as the party’s potential chief ministerial candidate in the November 2018 Madhya Pradesh elections.
Talking to reporters, senior Congress leader Ajay Singh, who is the leader of opposition in the Madhya Pradesh assembly, conceded Scindia’s influence in the constituency but said the Congress did not have “a tradition of projecting a chief ministerial candidate".
“The BJP has given a slogan: ‘Ab Ki Baar, 200 Paar’ (This time around, 200-plus seats) for the 2018 assembly elections. But our slogan is ‘Ab Ki Baar, Congress Ki Sarkar’. Our target is to reduce the BJP to a two-digit tally in the assembly elections and the winds of change demonstrated by the victory in bypolls will turn into a cyclone by November 2018 that will sweep the BJP away," Singh said.
In Odisha’s Bijepur bypoll, BJD nominee Rita Sahu defeated her BJP rival Ashok Panigrahi by 41,933 votes.
Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik hailed the outcome and said it would have an impact on the general elections in 2019. “Such an enormous victory with a margin of over 40,000 votes will have an impact on future elections," Patnaik told reporters while thanking the people of Bijepur for their overwhelming support.
PTI contributed to this story.