Dehradun: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which suffered bypoll losses in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh on Thursday had the consolation of retaining the Tharali assembly seat in Uttarakhand by a slim margin.
BJP's Munni Devi Shah defeated Congress nominee Jeetram by 1,981 votes, Tharali's returning officer Parmanand Ram said at the end of the 15th round of counting.
Munni Devi Shah polled 25,737 votes while Jeetram, a former MLA, got 23,756 votes, he said.
Uttarakhand Kranti Dal's Kasvi Lal finished third with 1,365 votes followed by CPI(M) candidate Kunwar Ram who got 1,034 votes and independent Biri Ram who polled 587 votes, he said.
The BJP victory in the close fight takes its tally in the 70-member Uttarakhand assembly to 57. The bypoll to the reserved (SC) seat was held on May 28 following the death of Maganlal Shah whose widow was fielded by the BJP.
Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat attributed the victory to the party workers. "Though every electoral victory is the result of a combination of factors, I would attribute it primarily to the hard work of party workers at the grassroots who were able to take the Prime Minister's vision to every household," he said.
"They were able to convey to the electorate what the PM thinks about the poor, his vision for them as reflected in schemes like Ujjwala or Jan Dhan Yojana," Rawat said. State Congress chief Pritam Singh said the party accepted the verdict of the people. "We honour what the people of Tharali have decreed. We shall analyse the factors which led to our defeat but we are happy that we put up a good fight," he told reporters.
The Tharali outcome is significant for the BJP as it was the first poll battle for the party in Uttarakhand after it registered a thumping win in the state assembly elections last year, winning 57 of the 70 seats.
The by-election was also being seen as a referendum on the last 14 months of BJP rule in the state.
BJP leaders in Gopeshwar said the victory was due to the party's organisational strength, unity, effective poll management and the women votes.
"Women were in total sympathy with our candidate and turned up in large numbers at her poll meetings,” BJP's Chamoli district president Mohan Singh Thapaliyal said. The ambitious road and rail projects launched by the Centre for Uttarakhand, including the all-weather road for Chardham and the Rishikesh-Karnaprayag rail link also had an affect, he said.
However, the Congress candidate put up a tough fight running neck and neck with his BJP rival till the last round of counting. Jeetram polled more votes than he did against BJP's Maganlal Shah in the 2017 assembly polls, Congress's Chamoli district president Virendra Singh Rawat said.