Bhopal, Nov 24: In a major setback to the BJP close on the heels of its drubbing in Bihar, its candidate Nirmala Bhuria was today trounced by Kantilal Bhuria of Congress in the bypoll in Ratlam-Jhabua (ST) Lok Sabha seat in Madhya Pradesh, which the saffron party won in 2014.
However, the BJP, in power in the state, retained the Dewas Assembly seat. Nirmala Bhuria, daughter of Dileep Singh Bhuria, whose death necessitated the bypoll, lost to former Union Minister Kantilal Bhuria, who wrested the tribal-dominated seat from the BJP by a convincing margin of 88,832 votes, the Returning Officer said.
Buoyed by his victory, Kantilal said, "It is a victory of voters. The wave of BJP's defeat started from Jhabua would spread to the entire state and in the country.
"The by-polls were a direct contest between me and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and he suffered a humiliating defeat in Ratlam-Jhabua seat," Kantilal said.
In all, eight candidates were in the fray for the bypoll including a Janata Dal(U) aspirant. Kantilal got 5,36,743 votes while Nirmala bagged 4,47,911.
Janata Dal (U) candidate Vijay Haari polled 21,549 votes. Besides, 24,342 voters opted for the NOTA (None of the Above) option.
Also, the Rashtriya Krantikari Samajwadi Party candidate Kisan Singh Chouhan got 14,248 votes, Bahujan Mukti Party nominee Kailash Vasunia secured 5,339 votes, Samta Samadhan Party's Jalam Singh Patel 3,303 votes, Independents Josam Ramsingh got 6,601 votes and Pavan Singh Dodiya bagged 9,198 votes.
The by-election to the seat was being seen as crucial for the BJP following its rout in the Bihar Assembly elections.
The BJP and Congress both left no stone unturned while campaigning for their respective candidates. Dileep had won the polls for the first time on BJP ticket in 2014 by defeating Kantilal by a margin of 1,08,452 votes.
He had earlier won from the same seat six times as a Congress leader. Kantilal had earlier won the Lok Sabha polls from Jhabua seat four times.
However, riding on 'sympathy wave' after the death of sitting MLA Tukoji Rao Puar, an erstwhile royal of Dewas, BJP retained Dewas Assembly seat where its candidate and Puar's wife Gayatri Raje Puar defeated Congress's Jai Prakash Shastri by a margin of 30,778 votes.
The victory in Ratlam-Jhabua may revive Congress fortunes in MP where it has been out of power since 2003.
Besides the shadow of Bihar elections, the remarks on reservation issue by RSS head Mohan Bhagwat appears to have had its impact on the predominantly tribal seat.
Sensing an opportunity in the by-poll, Congress in the state, hit by internal dissensions, had put up a united face with all senior leaders, including Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh, former Union Minister Kamal Nath and party's chief whip in the Lok Sabha Jyotiraditya Scindia and others, campaigining for the party candidate.
On its part, BJP too roped-in Union Ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, Thawar Chand Gehlot, national vice-president and in-charge of the party in Madhya Pradesh Vinay Sahastrbuddhe, national general secretary Kailash Vijaywargiya, state BJP president Nandkumar Singh Chouhan and a number of state Cabinet ministers for the electioneering.
Though the main contest was between the BJP and Congress in Ratlam seat, the JD(U), buoyed by the success of Grand Alliance in Bihar, had tried to put a similar front by roping-in CPI, CPM, Gondwana Gantantra Party and Bahujan Sangarsh Dal in the state to provide an alternative, but it did not make any impact.
In 2014, the BJP won the polls from Ratlam-Jhabua seat by a margin of 1,08,452 votes for the first time. When Dileep was in Congress, he won the Lok Sabha polls from this seat, which was earlier known as Jhabua seat, five times consecutively from 1980 to 1996.