Congress makes gains in Assembly bypolls, wins a seat each in 3 States

In alliance with the CPI(M), party defeats ruling Trinamool Congress in Sagardighi of West Bengal; it grabs Kasba Peth in Maharashtra in a prestige battle in an RSS-BJP bastion; loss in Ramgarh in Jharkhand is, however, a serious drubbing

Updated - March 03, 2023 05:52 pm IST

Published - March 02, 2023 11:06 pm IST - New Delhi

Congress candidate Ravindra Dhangekar with supporters celebrates his victory in the Kasba Peth Assembly bypoll, in Pune, on March 2, 2023.

Congress candidate Ravindra Dhangekar with supporters celebrates his victory in the Kasba Peth Assembly bypoll, in Pune, on March 2, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Congress had reason to cheer as results of byelections to six Assembly seats in five States were announced on Thursday, despite its poor showing in the Assembly elections in Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya. Of the six seats, the party won three — most notable are the victories in Sagardighi in West Bengal and Kasba Peth in Maharashtra.

In Sagardighi, Bayron Biswas, backed by the CPI(M), defeated Debasish Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress by nearly 23,000 votes. The last time the Congress won the seat was 51 years ago in the 1972 Assembly election. From 1977 to 2006, the CPI(M) won the seat, and from 2011, the Trinamool held the seat.

The byelection was held as incumbent Subrata Saha died last December. Mr. Biswas’ victory finds the Congress a berth in the West Bengal Assembly. The party, along with its ally CPI(M), scored a blank in the 2021 Assembly election, a first for them since Independence.

In Kasba Peth, Congress candidate Ravindra Dhangekar won the seat for the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) in a BJP stronghold. Mr. Dhangekar defeated BJP candidate Hemant Rasane by 10,915 votes. This is the first time in 28 years that a Congress candidate has won the seat. For six consecutive elections from 1995 to 2019, the BJP won the seat. The byelection was necessitated as Mukta Tilak died last December. This was the first direct contest between the BJP-Shiv Sena Shinde faction and the MVA after the change in government in Maharashtra last June.

Mr. Dhangekar’s victory is also significant as the gap in the vote share between the Congress and the BJP in the previous elections had been high. In 2019, Mukta Tilak of the BJP got 50.3%, while Arvind Shinde of the Congress got 31.52%. In 2014, the BJP’s Girish Bapat cornered 43.44% and the Congress’ Rohit Tilak 18.49%. 

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh hailed the party’s victories in three States. “The Congress won Kasba Peth after a gap of nearly 30 years. This is a bastion of RSS-BJP and it a very positive sign for us. We won Tamil Nadu bypolls by a brilliant margin,” Mr. Ramesh said.

At Chinchwad in Maharashtra, Ashwini Laxman Jagtap of the BJP wrested the seat from Nana Kate of the NCP. Ms. Jagtap won her maiden election by over 36,000 votes.

The Congress managed to retain the Erode (East) seat in Tamil Nadu where the death of E. Thirumahan Everaa led to the byelection. His father, E.V.K.S. Elangovan, defeated K.S. Thennarasu of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) by 66,233 votes. Mr. Elangovan gave full credit to Chief Minister and DMK leader M.K. Stalin for his win.

All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) supporters celebrate the party candidate’s victory in the Ramgarh Assembly bypoll.

All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) supporters celebrate the party candidate’s victory in the Ramgarh Assembly bypoll. | Photo Credit: PTI

In Ramgarh in Jharkhand, the Congress was unable to hold on to its seat. The byelection was held after incumbent Mamata Devi was disqualified upon her conviction in a criminal case. All Jharkhand Students Union Party candidate Sunita Choudhary won the seat, defeating Ms. Devi’s husband, Bajrang Mahto, by nearly 22,000 votes. The defeat is particularly jarring because Mr. Mahto was backed by the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, with Chief Minister Hemant Soren making a public appeal in his support..

No voting was required in Lumla of Arunachal Pradesh as Tsering Lhamu of the BJP was elected unopposed. She is the widow of the MLA whose death necessitated the bypoll.

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