By-Election Results 2017: BJP wins Bandhavgarh assembly seat while Congress wins Ater assembly seat
The BJP and the Congress split Madhya Pradesh's two seats where by-elections were held, retaining seats they had held. The by-polls were watched closely as a bellwether for assembly elections next year.
In Bandhavgarh, the BJP's Shivnarayan Singh defeated the Congress candidate Savitri Singh by more than 25,476 votes. By-elections were held because the sitting BJP legislator was elected to parliament in a by-poll last year.
The by-poll in Ater has been won by the Congress' Hemant Katare, whose father Satyadev Katare was the Congress' legislator from the seat and had died recently. The party had fielded the MLA's son hoping to cash in on a sympathy wave, but Mr Katare almost didn't make it, trailing behind the BJP's Arvind Singh Bhadoria in the first few rounds and finally winning only by 857 votes.
The Congress had demanded that voting in the Madhya Pradesh by-elections be done on ballot paper and not electronic voting machines or EVMs, after a voting machine reportedly issued only BJP slips during a demonstration in Bhind, where the Ater constituency is. The Election Commission has emphatically said that EVMs cannot be rigged, rejecting the demand for paper ballot.
The last-minute win in Madhya Pradesh improved the Congress' tally from today's by-elections. For most of the day it had seemed set to retain only two seats in Karnataka. The party has lost state after state in assembly elections since its debacle in the 2014 national elections and hopes to benefit from a possible anti-incumbency sentiment in next year's election in Madhya Pradesh, which has been ruled by the BJP for many years.
The BJP has ruled the state since 2003, with Chief Minister Chouhan following up a big win in the 2013 assembly elections with almost a clean sweep of the state in the 2014 national election. The BJP had won 27 of 29 Lok Sabha seats.
In the 230-member state assembly, it holds 166 seats.