Raipur: Ruling BJP Saturday retained the Naxal-hit Antagarh assembly constituency in Chhattisgarh with the second highest votes going to the NOTA (none of the above) option in the absence of a Congress nominee who pulled out of the contest at the last minute.
BJP candidate Bhojraj Naag trounced his lone opponent Rupdhar Pudo from Ambedkarite Party of India in the by-election by a margin of over 50,000 votes. While Naag got 63,616 votes, 13,506 voters opted for NOTA (none of the above). Pudo was in third position with 12,086 votes in the contest, which had just two candidates.
The BJP candidate gained an impressive lead over Pudo as soon as counting began at 8 am at Bhanupratap Dev PG college of Kanker district headquarters.
"Bhojraj Naag of the BJP has won the tribal reserved seat by a margin of around 51,530 votes," an election official said here.
Congratulating Naag, Chief Minister Raman Singh termed it as the victory of democracy.
"It is the victory of democracy and the people of Antagarh have once again shown faith in us because of our development works," the CM said.
Coming into existence in 2008 after the delimitation process, Antagarh (ST) seat was won twice in a row by BJP's former Forest Minister Vikram Usendi.
On both occasions, Usendi had defeated Manturam Pawar. The by-election in the seat was necessitated when Usendi resigned after he got elected to the Lok Sabha from Kanker seat.
14 candidates had filed nominations. After scrutiny and withdrawal of nominations only two contestants, Bhojraj Naag from BJP and Rupdhar Pudo of Ambedkarite Party of India - remained in fray.
Congress, which has been struggling after facing a humiliating defeat in both Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in the state, had declared Manturam Pawar as its candidate from the seat anticipating a good show.
However, Pawar withdrew his nomination before the last day of withdrawal of nominations on August 29 following which he was expelled from the party.
A voter turnout of 58.73 per cent was recorded in the Antagarh assembly seat bypoll which was held on September 13.
Voting on this seat was held along with by-elections to 32 other assembly constituencies in nine states, where BJP lost 13 out of the 23 seats held by it in results declared on September 16.