Congress suffers setback in LS bypolls

Congress suffers setback in LS bypolls

Congress suffers setback in LS bypolls

The Congress on Saturday suffered a setback as it lost a seat held by its chief minister in Uttarakhand and barely managed to win another vacated by President Pranab Mukherjee in West Bengal in the two by-elections held for the Lok Sabha. The results come after a series of scams involving its government at the Centre.

In the hilly constituency of Tehri in Uttarakhand, Bhar­atiya Janata Party’s Mala Raj Laxmi Shah, the daughter-in-law of erstwhile Tehri royal family scion Manvendra Shah, defeated Congress candidate Saket Bahuguna, son of Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna.

Winnning a constituency which had returned her father-in-law for a record eight times, Shah won by a margin of 22,431 votes over her nearest rival Bahuguna in a field of 14 candidates. Shah polled 2,45,292 votes against Bahuguna’s 2,22,861 votes.

The hill state had recently witnessed Assembly elections where the Congress won by a margin of just one seat.  At Jangipur, which had generated interest as it was the seat of Pranab Mukherjee and that his son was fighting elections, Abhijit Mukherjee scra­ped through, winning by a narrow margin of 2,536 votes.

The Trinamool Congress was not in the fray as its boss and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, in a goodwill gesture, had declared that her party would not contest.

This finally became the key factor for the Congress victory. It perhaps signalled the resurgence of the CPM which performed well in the bypoll. In the 2010 Assembly elections, the Left parties had tasted a humiliating defeat.

Abhijit polled 3,32,919 votes, while CPM candidate Muzaffar Hussain bagged 3,30,383 votes. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Sudhangshu Biswas, who came third, polled 85,867 votes.Two independent candidates—Raisuddin and Tahedul Islam—polled 41,620 and 24,691 votes respectively.

The senior Mukherjee had won the seat in 2009 by a huge margin of over 1.28 lakh votes under a poll alliance with the Trinamool Congress. The Congress and Trinamool Congress are no longer partners of the ruling United Progressive Alliance.

“My thin margin (of victory) is because the elections were held in a difficult political situation. The issues like foreign direct investment as well as rise in essential prices were there. The BJP and some other forces tried to split the Congress votes and help the opposition,” Abhijit Mukherjee told reporters soon after the results were announced. He claimed that the low voter turnout (about 60 per cent) was also among the reasons behind the dip in the margin for the Congress.

This was the first time that the elections were held after the bitter political war over the foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail and recent rounds of economic reforms. The BJP and the Trinamool Congress had opposed the foreign direct investment.

With Saturday's results, the strength of Congress in the Lok Sabha comes down to 206 in a House of 545. The BJP now has 115 members.

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