The Bharatiya Janata Party broke into the Congress bastion bagging the Kathlal assembly seat for the first time in five decades winning the by-poll, giving Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi a victory gift on his 61st birthday.
Kanu Dabhi won by over 21,000 votes defeating his nearest Congress rival Ghelabhai Zala. Dabhi got 62,120 votes while Zala polled 40,573 votes. With this win, the strength of BJP in the 182-member state assembly increased to 122. The main opposition Congress has 54 MLAs while others hold six seats.
Savouring the victory, Modi utilised it to fire a salvo at the Congress, saying "people have defeated every conspiracy of Congress and the Central Bureau of Investigation."
"This is people's support for the development oriented politics," Modi told reporters in Gandhinagar shortly after his party's win in the by-election necessitated due to death of sitting Congress MLA Gautam Zala. "Even the Congress and the CBI together, could not defeat BJP in what was considered a Congress bastion," he said. Modi himelf noted that the BJP had never won a seat from Kathlal. Those indulging in secular vote bank politics have been given a befitting reply by the people of Gujarat, Modi said.
"It (victory) has come from an area which is represented by two Central ministers. Clearly people have rejected the Congress," he added. Kathlal is in central Gujarat's Kheda district which is represented in the Lok Sabha by Union Minister Dinsha Patel. The adjacent Anand parliamentary constituency is represented by another Union Minister Bharat Solanki.
In New Delhi, the BJP hailed the win as "a complete rejection of Congress-CBI alliance" by the state voters. "The Congress-CBI alliance and misuse of CBI in Gujarat has been completely rejected by the people of the state," BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitaraman told reporters in New Delhi in an apparent reference to the arrest of Modi's close aide and former state Home Minister Amit Shah by CBI in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case.
"It is a slap on the face of Congress for trying all kinds of methods including misuse of CBI to gain politically in a state which they have been repeatedly rejected," she said, hailing her party's victory in the Congress bastion as"historic". BJP supporters across Gujarat celebrated the birthday of Modi and the victory in Kathlal distributing sweets and burning fire crackers. The BJP has never been able to win from Kathlal in the assembly since formation of a separate Gujarat state in 1960.
Friday's victory is expected to be a big boost for BJP coming just ahead of elections to six municipal corporations scheduled to be held on October 10.