Congress candidate Savitri Mandavi was leading by a margin of more than 14,000 votes over her nearest rival in the Bhanupratappur Assembly bypoll in Chhattisgarh, where counting was taken up on Thursday morning, officials said.
As per the early trends, Ms. Mandavi was leading by a margin of 14,418 votes against Brahmanand Netam of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), an election official said. Ms. Mandavi has so far secured 30,196 votes, while Mr. Netam got 15,778 votes after nine rounds of counting, he said.
Akbar Ram Korram, who is contesting as an independent, is at the third position with 15,227 votes, he added.
Counting of votes for byelection to the Bhanupratappur Assembly seat in Chhattisgarh began at 8 a.m. on December 8 with the ruling Congress eyeing to retain the tribal-dominated constituency.
Voter turnout of 71.74% recorded
A voter turnout of 71.74% was recorded in the bypoll held on December 5 for the seat, reserved for Scheduled Tribe candidates and located in the Maoist-affected Kanker district.
The bypoll in Bhanupratappur was necessitated following the death of Congress MLA and deputy speaker of Assembly Manoj Singh Mandavi on October 16.
Though seven contestants were in the fray, the main fight was between the ruling Congress and the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The ballot count began on Thursday morning at the Bhanu Pratap Dev Government PG College in Kanker town where an adequate number of security personnel have been deployed.
Postal ballots counted first
Postal ballots will be counted first followed by votes cast in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), an official said, adding the entire process will be completed in 19 rounds.
The Congress fielded Savitri Mandavi, the wife of late MLA Manoj Singh Mandavi, while the BJP nominated former legislator Brahmanand Netam.
The Sarva Adivasi Samaj, an umbrella body of tribal communities in Bastar, also fielded its candidate, former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Akbar Ram Korram, who contested as an independent.
Ahead of the bypoll, the Congress highlighted what it claimed were pro-farmer and pro-tribal measures taken by the Bhupesh Baghel government, including launch of the Rajiv Gandhi Kisan Nyay Yojana, the cow dung procurement scheme and distribution of forest rights certificates.
The BJP countered it by saying the Chhattisgarh government had failed to protect reservation benefits of the Scheduled Tribe communities in the state.
In the 2018 Assembly elections, Congress’s Manoj Singh Mandavi had defeated BJP’s Deo Lal Dugga by a margin of 26,693 to win the Bhanupratappur seat.
The Congress registered a landslide victory in the 2018 polls by winning 68 seats in the 90-member House. The BJP had managed to win just 15 seats, while the Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) and the Bahujan Samaj Party bagged five and two seats, respectively.
Subsequently, the state witnessed bypolls to four Assembly seats all of which were won by the Congress.