The BJP'shuge victory margin of 21,886 votes in the Keshkal Assembly bypoll bang in the heart of Naxalite infested Chhattisgarh'sDantwada district, the results of which were declared on February 10, proves as a compelling piece of evidence that the state sponsored anti-Naxalite drive, ?salwa judum?, has begun to yield positive results at the ground level.
The poll percentage had been a record 72 per cent despite a stern Maoist call for a boycott. The bypoll became necessary following the death of the sitting BJP MLA in a car accident. Both the winning candidate (Sevakram Netam) as well as the Congress runners-up B. Markam are new entrants.
The BJP had won the seat by about 10,000 votes in 2003 with just 40 per cent votes cast. The successive raids on Naxalite dens in the state capital and elsewhere coupled with the determination of the tribal populace in the affected districts not to be cowed down by the Maoist menace had ensured a heavy turnout, observers say.
?It is a good sign, and will strengthen the salwa-judum movement? the BJP leaders say. More than 80 per cent of the area in the Keshkal Assembly segment is said to the Naxalite affected.
The Congress party had paid dearly for the internal squabbling between the factions of former CM Ajit Jogi and Mr V.C. Shukla following the latter'sreadmission into the party. The Congress which was the dominant force in the region till 2003 seems to have lost voters? confidence primarily because of Mr Jogi'spolicy of striking an unofficial poll pact with the Maoists, whom many consider enemies of the state.
Those in the know say that even this time the Congress had the ?blessings? of the Naxalite commanders. But yet again the deal did not pay off. In fact, it only ended up further alienating the adivasis in the area from the party. (FOC)