Kolkata: The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal wrested the Sabang Assembly seat from the Congress on Sunday by defeating its nearest rival, the CPI(M), by a massive margin of over 64,000 votes.
While TMC candidate Gita Rani Bhunia secured 1,06,179 votes, her closest rival, Rita Mandal of the CPI(M), bagged 41,987 votes.
Antara Bhattacharya of the BJP bagged 37,476 votes and the Congress' Chiranjib Bhowmick secured 18,060 votes, West Midnapore District Magistrate (DM) Jagdish Prasad Meena said.
The results came as a booster for the TMC and the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government, ahead of the panchayat polls and two by-elections -- in Noapara Assembly constituency and Uluberia Lok Sabha seat -- due early next year.
The bypoll was necessitated after former Congress MLA Manas Bhunia defected to the TMC earlier this year and became a Rajya Sabha MP.
TMC candidate Gita Rani is the wife of Bhunia. She has managed to win the bypoll by an even better margin than her husband's in the 2016 Assembly election.
Bhuniya, who had fought the Assembly polls as an alliance candidate of the Congress and CPI(M)-led Left Front, had won the seat by a margin of over 50,000 votes.
The TMC, which had secured the second position in Sabang in the Assembly election with 36 per cent votes, increased its ballot share by 15 per cent this time, bagging 51 per cent of the total votes polled.
The BJP, which had received only 5,610 votes in the Assembly election, also increased its vote share by leaps and bounds this time, securing nearly 18 per cent of the total votes polled.
The bypoll results brought some relief to the beleaguered Left Front, which has been losing its ground in the state to the BJP.
The biggest jolt was to the Congress, which not only lost one of its citadels to the TMC, but also finished a distant fourth in the bypoll.
Sabang has been a Congress stronghold since 1957.
An elated Manas Bhunia dedicated the victory to TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
"This is a victory of the developmental politics of Mamata Banerjee. The people of both urban and rural Bengal stand with her. This is a victory against the divisive politics of the BJP," he said.
State BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said despite the TMC's "reign of terror" in the region, the saffron party witnessed a huge surge in its vote share.
Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly and senior Congress leader Abdul Mannan also blamed the TMC's "high-handedness" for his party's poor show in the bypoll.
"The people of Sabang could not vote freely and fairly," he said.
The state CPI(M) leadership too echoed the views of the Congress.
"If the people of Sabang had voted freely, we would have won the seat. But despite the terror tactics, people have voted for us in huge numbers," CPI(M) leader Satarup Ghosh said.