BHOPAL: Former Union minister and Congress veteran Kantilal Bhuria wrested the Jhabua (ST) assembly seat from the BJP by a handsome margin on Thursday.
Bhuria, 69, one of the most powerful tribal leaders of the Congress in MP, defeated 37-year-old first-time BJP candidate Bhanu Bhuria by over 27,700 votes after 26 rounds of counting. Though the result of 258 postal ballots and 313 votes in an EVM (which was to be matched with VVPAT slips) is yet to be added to the tally, the announcement of a win for the seasoned Congress campaigner is only a mere formality now.
The Congress veteran (who was the state Congress president in 2013) secured 95,741 votes, while the BJP candidate secured 67,984 votes.
With the Congress winning the Jhabua assembly seat, the party has now swept all three seats of Jhabua district (Thandla and Petlawad being the other two) and all five seats of Alirajpur and Jhabua district.
With this, the powerful Bhuria family (considered Congress’s first family in the Alirajpur, Jhabua and Dhar districts of tribal MP adjoining Gujarat) now has two members in the 230-member MP Vidhan Sabha. In the 2018 assembly polls, Kantilal Bhuria’s niece Kalawati Bhuria was elected from Jobat seat of Alirajpur district.
Importantly, the powerful Bhuria family won from their home seat (Jhabua assembly constituency) in a regular assembly/by-election for the first time ever. Kantilal Bhuria, the former Union and ex-MP minister, who has won four assembly elections from Thandla seat and five Lok Sabha polls from Ratlam-Jhabua seat is the first winner from his family here.
Prior to Thursday’s bypoll result, his medico-turned-politician son Vikrant Bhuria lost in the 2018 elections to BJP’s GS Damor (due to presence of Congress rebel Javier Medha), while five years before that Kantilal’s niece and rebel Congress candidate Kalawati Bhuria too came third behind the BJP winner and official Congress candidate in 2013 polls.
The Jhabua assembly seat has long been a Congress citadel, with the party winning seven of the last ten polls from there. Tribal leader and former MP minister Bapu Singh Damor won the seat a record six times in the past.
The byelection to the seat was necessitated after it was vacated by BJP MLA GS Damor, following his victory from Ratlam-Jhabua (ST) Lok Sabha seat in the 2019 general elections. Even during the LS polls, where BJP’s GS Damor defeated five-time sitting Congress MP Kantilal Bhuria by a massive margin, it was the Congress which led from Jhabua assembly segment by over 10,500 votes.
With the victory in the bypoll, the Congress has not only wrested its tribal bastion from the BJP, but is now just one short of the simple majority figure of 116 on its own in the MP Vidhan Sabha, thus reducing the Kamal Nath government’s dependence on the seven ally MLAs. The BJP which won 109 seats in the 2018 assembly polls now has just 108 members in the state assembly.
Chief Minister Kamal Nath described Thursday’s Jhabua by-poll win as the positive fallout of ten months of constructive and pro-people work of his government in the state. Importantly, Nath had himself campaigned for the Congress veteran multiple times in Jhabua, including twice embarking on roadshows.
On the other hand, the defeated Bhanu Bhuria said the late declaration of the candidate by BJP also contributed to the loss. “The Congress started campaigning right after our sitting MLA GS Damor vacated the seat three months back and even declared their candidate early. Each of the around two dozen ministers worked solidly on the ground. On the other hand, we had too little time to work on the ground, but still managed to get 2,000 more votes than the 2018 polls,” he said.