BJP retains Chhattisgarh assembly seat, Congress admits setback

Raipur, Feb 17 (IANS) The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Thursday won the Sanjari Balod assembly seat in Chhattisgarh Thursday, prompting celebrations at the ruling party's headquarters while the opposition Congress admitted that the result was a setback.

BJP's candidate Kumari Bai Sahu defeated her nearest rival Mohan Patel of the Congress by nearly 9,500 votes. A total of 15 candidates were in the fray but 13 of them lost deposits. The elections were held Feb 14.

The by-election for Sanjari Balod, in Durg district, was necessitated after Sahu's husband Madanlal Sahu, who belonged to the BJP, died following cardiac arrest in August last year.

With the victory, the tally of the BJP in the 90-member state assembly has risen to 49 while the opposition Congress has 39 members and the Bahujan Samaj Party two.

The Congress' Mohan Patel had lost the Sanjari-Balod seat by just a few hundred votes in November 2008 to Madanlal Sahu and the Congress, expecting an easy win, bet on him again.

The result has stunned the party leaders.

'It's a setback, I accept the peoples' verdict in Sanjari Balod. The party will very soon conduct a comprehensive review on where we went wrong,' Dhanendra Sahu, state Congress president, told reporters.

The BJP was jubilant. Supporters burst firecrackers at the party headquarters here as the victory, after 14 rounds of counting, was flashed by local TV channels.

'It's a victory of development works and the peoples' approval to the state government's policies,' said Chief Minister Raman Singh.