The Congress on Sunday retained the Damoh Assembly seat with the party candidate Ajay Tandon defeating his former colleague and nearest BJP rival Rahul Singh Lodhi by a margin of 17,097 votes, an official said. Tandon (57) polled 74,832 votes while Lodhi (36) bagged 57,735 votes, Damoh Collector and Returning Officer Tarun Rathi said.
The bypoll was necessitated due to the resignation of Lodhi as the sitting MLA of the Congress. He later joined the BJP. In the first round itself, Tandon took a lead of 700 votes over Lodhi and the gap increased in subsequent rounds.
Tandon had lost elections twice to former MP minister Jayant Malaiya (73) from the Damoh assembly constituency. Tandon's campaign remained focused on addressing small meetings, especially in villages, and meeting people.
The result indicates that Congress succeeded in projecting Lodhi as a deserter. Congress contested the by-poll on the "Bikau and Tikau" slogan.
"We told the Damoh electorate that if they want a 'Tikau' (durable) leader, they should vote for Tandon as Lodhi
is 'Bikau' (salable)," MP Congress spokesman Bhupendra Gupta said.
From the BJP's camp, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Union minister Prahlad Patel, BJP MP Jyotiraditya Scindia, Madhya Pradesh BJP president VD Sharma and almost all the ministers campaigned in Damoh for Lodhi.
The BJP harped on the development plank. CM Chouhan had even laid the foundation stone of a government medical college in Damoh before the poll code came into force. Powerful BJP leader Jayant Malaiya, whom Lodhi had defeated last time as the Congress candidate, kept himself away from electioneering.
Besides, Lodhi's entry into the BJP had not gone down well with local cadres in Damoh. Madhya Pradesh BJP chief spokesman Deepak Vijaywargiya said the party leaders will introspect the defeat.
"I want to thank the people of Damoh. The message is clear that 'politics of deals won't work'," elated Kamal Nath told reporters.
"Congratulations to Ajay Tandon Ji We did not win but have learned a lot," Union Minister Prahlad Patel tweeted.