Uttarakhand: BJP wins Tehri Lok Sabha bypoll



Dehradun: Ruling Congress in Uttarakhand on Saturday suffered a setback when its candidate and Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna's son, Saket, lost to BJP's Mala Rajya Laxmi Shah in prestigious Tehri Lok Sabha bypoll by an emphatic margin.

The BJP nominee won by a margin of 22,431 votes, securing 24,52,92 votes while the Congress candidate secured 22,28,61 votes in the bypoll held on October 10, chief electoral officer Radha Raturi said.

BJP maintained lead against Congress in most of the Assembly segments of the constituency throughout the counting process which began at 0800 hours in Dehradun amid tight security.

As the counting progressed, BJP's lead continued to surge with the party taking a decisive edge in Dehradun district with Shah forging ahead by miles against Saket in six out of the seven Assembly segments in the district.

Immediately after the victory, BJP workers thronged the streets distributing sweets, applying 'gulal' on each other, setting off firecrackers and raising slogans against price rise and the cap on LPG cylinders which were the opposition's major poll planks.

BJP thus snatched the seat from Congress which fell vacant after Vijay Bahuguna resigned from it following his win from Sitarganj Assembly constituency.

Mala Rajya Laxmi Shah's father-in-law and the scion of erstwhile Tehri royal family late Manvendra Shah had held the seat for a record eight times.

It was only after his death that Vijay Bahuguna tasted his maiden victory from the seat in 2007.

The campaigning for the bypoll saw Congress seeking votes in the name of development and BJP flagging the issues of corruption and price rise.

Though both Shah and Saket were first timers in the electoral fray, the Tehri royal family member is not new to politics, having looked after the poll campaigns of her father-in-law for years and enjoying a direct contact with the people of her constituency.

Saket, on the other hand, is a relative greenhorn who quit a job with a multi-national company to contest the bypoll.

BJP's strategy of fielding Mala Rajya Laxmi Shah from the seat paid off considering the traditional clout weilded by her family among the people of the constituency.

The poll victory has also come as a comfort for BJP after its defeat at the hands of Congress in Sitarganj Assembly where it had to field a second nominee after its first choice withdew in favour of Vijay Bahuguna. Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly Ajay Bhatt said the bypoll verdict was a "significant pointer" towards what lay in store for Congress in coming Assembly polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh and also in the 2014 General Elections.

However, Pradesh Congress vice president Suryakant Dhasmana said he did not see the bypoll verdict as a referendum on the last six months of Bahuguna government in the state.

"It is just a reflection of the people's anger against the hike in prices of diesel and cap on subsidised LPG cylinders, a decision which came shortly before the bypoll," he admitted.

Pradesh Congress Chief Yashpal Arya said the party honours the verdict of the people but will take the defeat in its stride.

"We accept the bypoll verdict but are not dejected over our defeat. Victory and defeat are part of politics. Our endeavour now will be to rise to the expectations of people," Arya told reporters here.

PTI