The ruling BJP on Friday retained the Bageshwar assembly seat in Uttarakhand with its candidate Parwati Dass defeating Congress’ Basant Kumar by more than 2,400 votes in a closely contested bypoll.
Ms. Dass got 33,247 votes while Kumar polled 30,842 votes, Bageshwar District Magistrate and returning officer Anuradha Pal said.
The BJP won by 2,405 votes, she said.
The three other candidates in the fray – Uttarakhand Kranti Dal’s Arjun Kumar Dev, Samajwadi Party’s Bhagwati Prasad and Uttarakhand Parivartan Party’s Bhagwat Kohli – lost their deposits getting 857, 637 and 268 votes, respectively.
The bypoll was held on September 5 with 55.44% of the nearly 1.2 lakh voters exercising their franchise.
Parwati Dass, who won the seat on Friday, is wife of the late Chandan Ram Dass whose death in April this year had necessitated the bypoll.
Chandan Dass, who was a cabinet minister, had been winning the seat consecutively since 2007.
The victory of Parwati Dass comes as a big morale booster for the BJP ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections in which the party faces the challenge of retaining all the five parliamentary seats in the state for a consecutive third term.
Celebrations began in the BJP camp as the news of the party’s win from the seat broke with Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, Uttarakhand BJP president Mahendra Bhatt and Haridwar MLA Madan Kaushik offering sweets to each other.
Mr. Dhami thanked the people of Bageshwar for reposing their trust once again in the BJP.
“The bypoll verdict in Bageshwar is a tribute to our late MLA Chandan Ram Dass who worked tirelessly for the development of the constituency. His wife will carry forward his unfinished work,” Mr. Dhami said.
“It is also a stamp of approval by the people on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership and the development-oriented programmes and policies of the state government,” he said.
This is the fifth time in a row that the BJP has bagged the seat.
The one and only time the Congress won from the Bageshwar assembly constituency was in 2002 when its candidate Ram Prasad Tamta had defeated Narayan Das of the BJP by more than 2,000 votes.
The BJP had fielded Chandan Ram Dass’ wife from the seat eying sympathy votes as he was a popular leader. The strategy worked.
However, the fight was close as the BJP’s victory margin was much narrower than last time. Parwati Dass’ husband had won the seat in the 2022 assembly polls by 12,141 votes.
The thinner victory margin for the BJP this time may have something to do with its candidate’s relative inexperience in comparison to her closest rival.
Unlike Ms. Dass who had to take the plunge after her husband’s untimely demise, her closest opponent Basant Kumar is a full time politician who contested the last assembly election from the seat on an Aam Aadmi Party ticket and garnered more than 16,000 votes to finish third behind the BJP and Congress.
The bypoll verdict is being seen by poll observers as a reassertion of people’s faith in the programmes and policies being pursued by the BJP governments both in the state and at the Centre.
It is also a shot in the arm for Uttarakhand Chief Minister Dhami who has completed more than a year of his second term in office.
It is being interpreted as a mandate in favour of the state government’s priorities like constituting a committee to draft a Uniform Civil Code which was a major pre-poll promise in the 2022 assembly elections and the framing of stricter anti-copying and anti-conversion laws in the state besides the government crackdown on illegal land encroachments.
Both Congress and BJP had thrown all their might into the nearly fortnight-long campaign holding a slew of roadshows, public meetings and door-to-door campaigns in the run up to the bypoll.
Chief Minister Dhami and state BJP president Bhatt vigorously campaigned in the constituency for Ms. Dass holding several roadshows and public meetings while cabinet minister Saurabh Bahuguna was constantly camping in the constituency.
While the BJP sought votes for Parwati Dass to help her carry forward the unfinished work of her husband, the Congress raised the issues of growing unemployment, uncontrolled inflation and insecurity of women to woo the electorate.