Lotus blooms in Keshkal in Chhattisgarh, routed in Simaria

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Jagdalpur/Chatra, Feb 7 (UNI) The ruling BJP in Chhattisgarh today retained the Keshkal(ST) Assembly seat in the tribal Bastar district but lost Simaria in Jharkhand to CPI's Ramchandra Ram, who was backed by JMM and RJD, in the February 4 byelections.

BJP candidate Sevakram Netam defeated his nearest Congress rival Budhsen Markam by a margin of 21,886 votes in Keshkal.

The bypoll was necessitated due to the death of BJP legislator Mahesh Baghel, who was also a Parliamentary Secretary in the Dr Raman Singh ministry, in a road accident few months ago.

The BJP candidate polled 58,362 votes while his Congress rival got 36,476 votes. Independent candidates N Suri polled 3,099 votes while Mahesh Thakur and Sonuram Naik polled 3,114 and 8,307 votes respectively.

In Jharkhand, after five consecutive defeats, CPI's Ramchandra Ram backed by JMM and RJD, won the Simaria bypoll wresting the Assembly seat from the BJP which was placed in the fourth place.

Jharkhand Vikash Morcha (P) candidate Jaiprakash Singh Bhokta finished second bagging 23,092 votes followed by Congress Yogendra Nath Baitha polling 19,700 votes.

BJP's Kumar Ujjwal who made his electoral debut to retain the seat that fell vacant following the death of his father Upendra Nath Das could manage to secure only 18,234 votes.

Congress improved its position as in the last Assembly polls the party finished fifth with 5010 votes.

Last time, BJP bagged 31,858 votes followed by CPI's Ramchandra Ram with 24,438 votes and Mr Upendra Baitha of the RJD ticket with 17,859.

About 46 per cent polling of an estimated 2.4 lakh electorate was recorded to decide the fate of 14 candidates in the byelection to the Naxal-dominated seat.

Mr Netam said his victory in Keshkal was the outcome of the Chhattisgarh government's policies aimed at the welfare of poor and downtrodden.

''People in the remote areas are getting rice at subsidised rates and development works are also being carried out,'' he said, claiming the victory indicated that the BJP would sweep the next assembly elections in Chhattisgarh.

In Raipur, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh said the BJP's victory in the Keshkal(ST) Assembly byelection was the outcome of his government's policies and the people's support to the ongoing anti-naxalite movement in Bastar.

''Opposition Congress has been saying that this bypoll is a referendum on BJP government's policies. Now the people have reposed their faith and confidence in the BJP government'', he told reporters.

Dr Singh said his government's decision to supply rice at Rs 3 per kilo to more than 34 lakh families living below the poverty line and the scheme of supplying salt at 25 paise per kilo to poor tribals had instilled the confidence among the poor that BJP government was committed for their welfare and upliftment.

The Chief Minister also lauded the active participation of people of Bastar region in the ongoing anti-naxalite movement saying that the BJP's victory in Keshkal, a naxalite affected area, clearly indicated that the people at large were against the rebels.

UNI Team SK RP ND1730

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