Jaipur: In a spectacular showing, the Congress on Thursday wrested the Mandalgarh Assembly seat in Rajasthan from the BJP and was on the road to victory in both the Ajmer and Alwar Lok Sabha seats in the state, sparking wild celebrations.
Hundreds of Congress activists burst firecrackers and danced to drum beats outside the party office here as its candidate Vivek Dhakar trounced Bharatiya Janata Party's Shakti Singh Hada by 12,976 votes. Many amongst them distributed sweets.
While Dhakar got 70,146 votes, Hada secured 57,170 in the by-election held on January 29, Election Commission officials said. The election followed the death of BJP MLA Kirti Kumari due to swine flu in August last year. In Ajmer, with 61 per cent of the vote count over, Raghu Sharma of the Congress was leading by 77,868 votes by securing 391,754 votes. The BJP's Ram Swaroop Lamba had got 313,706 votes.
In Alwar, after 82 per cent of the vote count done with, Karan Singh Yadav of the Congress was leading by 144,914 votes. He had garnered 520,434 votes, leaving behind Jaswant Singh Yadav of the BJP at 375,520 votes. Congress candidates led from the beginning in vote count in both the Lok Sabha seats and edged past the BJP in Mandalgarh after initially trailing at the second spot.
A total of 42 candidates were in the fray in the three seats, all of which were held by the BJP. There were 23 contestants in Ajmer and 11 in Alwar. The elections to the Lok Sabha constituencies were necessitated by the deaths of Sanwarlal Jat (Ajmer) and Mahant Chand Nath Yogi (Alwar).
With Assembly elections scheduled later this year in Rajasthan, Congress leaders insisted that the verdict was a rejection of the BJP. Congress leader and former union minister Sachin Pilot demanded Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje's resignation on moral grounds. “It is a victory for people, party workers and all leaders," Pilot told the media. He said the BJP, after failing to woo the voters on the strength of religion, tried to polarize voters on caste lines but failed to fool the young voters.
"Young people in this country have realized that the politics of polarization doesn't work," he said. "The high-handedness and arrogance (of the BJP) has been rejected." Congress leader and former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said the results were a precursor to the 2019 general elections. "This by-election is a vote against BJP's divisive politics."
He took a dig at the BJP government in the state, saying apart from changing the names of Congress-era schemes, the Chief Minister had done nothing concrete for the people in the past four years she has ruled the country's largest state. "Unemployment is hurting the youth. Today's trends can be seen as precursor to not just state Assembly polls later this year but also to the next Lok Sabha polls," Gehlot said.