Achche Din for Congress in Rajasthan, sweeps by-elections


Jaipur, Feb 1 (IANS) In a spectacular showing, the Congress on Thursday stole the show in Rajasthan by wresting the Mandalgarh Assembly as well as the Ajmer and Alwar Lok Sabha seats from the ruling BJP by huge margins, triggering wild celebrations.

Congress activists burst firecrackers and danced to drum beats outside the party office here as Vivek Dhakar trounced Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Shakti Singh Hada by 12,976 votes in Mandalgarh. The BJP was stunned.

Karan Singh Yadav in Alwar defeated Jaswant Singh Yadav of the BJP by a whopping 196,496 votes while Raghu Sharma in Ajmer worsted the BJP's Ramswaroop Lamba by 84,414 votes. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress did not win a single seat in Rajasthan.

Raghu Sharma secured 611,514 votes against the 527,100 of Lamba. Karan Singh Yadav notched 642,416 votes against 445,920 secured by the BJP's Jaswant Singh.

Dhakar got 70,146 votes while Hada secured 57,170 in the by-election held on January 29, Election Commission officials said.

The election in Mandalgarh followed the death of BJP MLA Kirti Kumari due to swine flu in August last year.

Congress candidates led from the beginning in vote count in both the Lok Sabha seats and edged past the BJP in Mandalgarh after initially trailing at the second spot.

A total of 42 candidates were in the fray in the three seats, all of which were held by the BJP. There were 23 contestants in Ajmer and 11 in Alwar.

The elections to the Lok Sabha constituencies were necessitated by the deaths of Sanwarlal Jat (Ajmer) and Mahant Chand Nath Yogi (Alwar).

With Assembly elections scheduled later this year in Rajasthan, Congress leaders insisted that the verdict was a rejection of the BJP.

Congress leader and former union minister Sachin Pilot demanded Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje's resignation on moral grounds.

"It is a victory for people, party workers and all leaders," Pilot told the media.

He said the BJP, after failing to woo the voters on religious grounds, tried to polarize the voters on caste lines but failed.

"Young people in this country have realized that the politics of polarization doesn't work," he said. "The high-handedness and arrogance (of the BJP) has been rejected while people have put their trust in Congress president Rahul Gandhi."

Congress leader and former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said the results were a precursor to the 2019 general elections. "This by-election is a vote against BJP's divisive politics."

He took a dig at the BJP government in the state, saying apart from changing the names of Congress-era schemes, the Chief Minister had done nothing concrete for the people in the past four years she has ruled the country's largest state.

"Unemployment is hurting the youth. Today's trends can be seen as precursor to not just state Assembly polls later this year but also to the next Lok Sabha polls," Gehlot said.

The BJP conceded defeat. As the election results became known, the BJP office wore a deserted look.

Speaking to the media, Rajasthan BJP chief Ashok Parnami told reporters: "We respect the people's mandate and we will analyse the reasons for our defeat. I am taking responsibility for the defeat."

But he was confident that "lotus" -- the BJP election symbol -- "will bloom yet again in Rajasthan as we will rectify our mistakes".



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