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In Big Boost, Congress Keeps BJP Out In Key Madhya Pradesh Seat
(BHOPAL, Nov 12, 2017):In face of a super-aggressive BJP campaign, the Congress retained its stronghold, the assembly seat of Chitrakoot, by a margin of more than 14,000 votes. The seat had fallen vacant after the death of sitting legislator Prem Singh, who won it three times.

Chitrakoot is one of the three Congress strongholds - including Mungaoli and Kolaras -- that go to polls ahead of the assembly elections in the state which will be held at the end of next year. The Congress has high hopes of winning the election, owing to what it sees as anti-incumbency against the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government.

The BJP, which has been in power in the state for three straight terms, fought hard to wrest the seat, deploying nearly half of its cabinet to campaign in the area. The Chief Minister, who led the charge, had camped out in the area for three days, during which he held 23 rallies. Leaders from other states - including Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya -- also came to campaign for the election.

But the BJP showing was poor in all the 16 areas they focused on.

After the results were announced -- in which Congress's Neelandhu Chaturvedi beat BJP's Shankarlal Tripathi by 14,333 votes -- Mr Chouhan tweeted saying public mandate was supreme in democracy.

"I thank the people for their support. Nothing will come in the way of Chitrakoot's development. My aim is to develop entire Madhya Pradesh," the tweet read.

For the Congress, it was also a prestige battle.

The Vindhyas had been the home turf of the late Congress strongman Arjun Singh. His son Ajay Singh, who is also the leader of the opposition, has a huge following in the area. So last year's defeat in Maihar by-elections had come as a huge embarrassment for the party and questions had been raised about Mr Singh's clout.

This year, the party had pushed in its top guns, including Jyotiraditya Scindia, who is the front-runner for the Chief Minister's post for the coming elections. Senior leader Kamal Nath also came to campaign.

The two leaders not only targeted what they called the corruption and bad administration of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government but also raised the Ayodhya Ram Mandir issue to attack the BJP.

After Mr Chaturvedi's victory, Ajay Singh said, "The exile of the Congress in the state has ended from the taposthali of Lord Rama". Chitrakoot is said to be the place where Lord Rama had spent almost 12 years of his exile with wife Sita and brother Lakshmana.

The Congress, Mr Singh announced, had won from areas where Mr Chouhan held public meetings. "The BJP candidate has been defeated from his own village as well as the village of his in-laws," he added.

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