It seems the rapid surge in COVID-19 cases is taking its toll on the BJP and the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, where the ruling party’s Rahul Singh lost the Damoh bypoll to the Congress’ Ajay Kumar Tandon by over 15,000 votes.
Rahul Singh, a first-time MLA from the Congress, switched to the BJP in October last year. That was shortly before bypolls to the 28 seats left vacant by MLAs whose Congress-BJP jump led to the fall of the Kamal Nath government.
In this bypoll though, the BJP never went ahead in any round of counting.
In fact, it even trailed – perhaps for the first time in decades – in the urban ward that is home to the family of all-powerful former Finance Minister Jayant Malaiya.
Once the dust settled, the BJP candidate polled fewer votes even in his own village booth.
The bypoll was seen as a proxy battle between Union Minister Prahlad Patel, the Lok Sabha MP from Damoh, and Jayant Malaiya.
Rapid surge in #COVID cases taking its toll on the political prospects of the @BJP4India Rahul Singh lost the Damoh bypoll to the Congress’ Ajay Tandon but party in charge former minister Brijendra Singh Rathore died, Mandvi Chouhan died, 100 leaders infected pic.twitter.com/G8KG2Abfvl
— Anurag Dwary (@Anurag_Dwary) May 2, 2021
The party’s decision to field Mr Singh angered Mr Malviya and his son, who was angling for the ticket. Mr Malviya was later convinced to campaign for the party’s candidate. Mr Malaiya won Damoh six times before losing in 2018 to Rahul Singh, then of the Congress, by around 800 votes.
Prahlad Patel’s response was a seemingly dejected tweet.
“Best wishes to Congress candidate Ajay Tandonji leading to victory in Damoh’s Assembly by-election. We did not win but learned a lot!” he said.
दमोह के विधानसभा उपचुनाव में जीत की ओर अग्रसर कांग्रेस के उम्मीदवार अजय टंडन जी को शुभकामनाएँ ।हम जीते नहीं पर सीखे बहुत ?!
— Prahlad Singh Patel (@prahladspatel) May 2, 2021
The Congress has also demanded Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who was active in campaigning for the bypoll, resign.
“Damoh bypoll was fought by the Chief Minister himself… leaving behind the entire state to be swept aside by the COVID pandemic. He should take moral responsibility for the party’s loss, and also putting the lives of people in danger, and quit,” Congress spokesperson Narendra Saluja said.
Madhya Pradesh Congress MLA and former minister Brijendra Singh Rathore died while undergoing treatment for COVID-19 at a private hospital in Bhopal.
Mr Rathore, who represented the Prithvipur Assembly seat, died Sunday evening after a cardiac arrest. He was the party’s in-charge for the Damoh bypoll.
Over 100 Congress and BJP leaders have tested positive after campaigning in Damoh, including the victor Ajay Tandon.
Meanwhile, among others to have been infected by the virus are Rajya Sabha MP Digvijaya Singh of the Congress, and the party’s district chief, Manu Mishra.
BJP MLA and state General Secretary Harishankar Khatik, former MLA KK Shrivastav and Niwari district President Akhilesh Ayachi also tested positive.
Urban Development minister Bhupendra Singh, who was closely monitoring the Damoh bypoll, has also tested positive.
BJP leaders who campaigned extensively and turned positive during the campaign included Archana Singh, the BJP councillor from Chhatarpur, Shayam Tiwari from Sagar, Digvijay Tripathi and Panna district President Ram Chourasia.
Congress state Mahila Morcha chief Mandvi Chouhan, who was said to have been laying the groundwork for the party in the poll run-up, died of Covid.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)