Congress Scores 3/3 In Rajasthan Bypolls, "Well Done, Proud" Says Rahul Gandhi

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JAIPUR: The Congress today scored a perfect three on three in the Rajasthan bypolls, delivering a major blow to the ruling BJP ahead of several state elections and the national polls next year. The party won the Alwar and Ajmer parliamentary seats and the Mandalgarh assembly segment, all held by the BJP. 

"Well done Rajasthan Congress! Proud of each and every one of you. This is a rejection of the BJP by the people of Rajasthan," tweeted Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

Both the ruling BJP and the Congress prepped for the by-polls as they would for a full election, with Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Congress leader Sachin Pilot campaigning hard in the seats left vacant after the death of lawmakers.

"We are committed to Rajasthan's development... now we have to work very hard," said Ms Raje in a tweet.

Her party asserted that the results do not reflect a national trend. "We are going to study the reasons, but bypolls don't reflect the full picture," said BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya.

The margins of victory are what the BJP should be worried about. In Alwar, the Congress candidate defeated his rival by nearly two lakh votes; in Ajmer the lead was over 84,000 votes. In Mandalgarh assembly seat, a Congress rebel got 22 per cent of the vote share and came third. Yet the Congress won the seat with a convincing margin of over 12,000 votes.

The BJP and Vasundhara Raje went all out in their campaign to retain the seats, with the Chief Minister dividing her time between Ajmer and Alwar.

The party assesses that Rajput anger over the film Padmaavat and the cow vigilante attacks in Alwar may have damaged its prospects.

In the high-voltage run-up to the by-polls, the Congress accused the BJP of trying to polarize voters and doing nothing to stop attacks on Muslims in incidents mostly linked to cow vigilantes. 

The Congress pointed out that despite a rebel in Mandalgarh who snatched 22 per cent of the vote share, the party won by more than 12,000 votes. 

Sachin Pilot said the polls mark his party's comeback in a big state at an important point in national politics.

"The people have rejected the Vasundhara Raje government and its policies. Young people have realized that the politics of polarization doesn't work," said Sachin Pilot, who had lost the Ajmer seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha election in which the Congress failed to win a single seat in Rajasthan.

Mr Pilot had shifted to Ajmer after his family bastion Dausa became a reserved seat in 2009. But he lost to Sanwar Lal Jat, who died last year.
COMMENTSAll three seats are linked to Rahul Gandhi's top lieutenants in Rajasthan - Mr Pilot, CP Joshi and Jitendra Singh Bhanwar.

Party leaders like Milind Deora said election results not just in Rajasthan, but also in Gujarat - where the Congress came second but managed just a 10-seat gap with the BJP - are a "manifestation of rural distress in the economy". 

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