Lotus blooms in bypoll at red den

via http://www.telegraphindia.com//1080208/jsp/nation/story_8874595.jsp published on February 8, 2008

Raipur, Feb. 7: BJP candidate Sewakram Netam today won Keshkal Assembly by-election in one of the worst Naxalite-hit areas in Bastar, some 200km from Raipur, by a comfortable margin of over 21,800 votes.

While Netam polled 58,362 votes, his nearest Congress rival Budhson Markam could bag only 36,476. The three Independents in the fray lost their deposits.

The by-poll in Keshkal constituency, held on February 4, were necessitated following the recent death of Keshal BJP legislator and parliamentary secretary Mahesh Baghel in a road accident.

The election was significant for the BJP in many aspects. While it would bear a direct impact on the state polls, due in November 2008, the victory of the saffron brigade in the red bastion would boost cadres’ confidence, especially since workers in most rural pockets spend sleepless nights.

To win this bypoll, the ruling party pulled all strings to bag votes. Ministers campaigned extensively in the constituency despite the fact that most had previously preferred to not spend a night in the Maoist strongholds in the past four years, ever since the BJP came to power in the state. More than six ministers stayed in the red bastion and supervised the electioneering this time.

On the other hand, the Congress candidate was more cautious. Its leaders preferred to keep away and senior leaders spent only a few hours before rushing back to the capital, some 200km from Keshkal, in the evenings.

“The Keshkal outcome would propel party cadre in the other red-hit pockets. Their confidence had faltered after the party’s defeat in the insurgency-hit Rajnandgaon Lok Sabha in 2007,” a senior BJP leader said. Several parts of Rajnandgaon are Maoist strongholds. In last year’s election, rebels reportedly threatened villagers to vote against BJP candidates.

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