In the Champawat bypoll, Dhami received 58,258 votes (92.94 per cent) in total and confirmed victory with a margin of over 55,000 votes over Congress candidate Nirmala Gahtori. Voting for the Champawat seat, which was vacated for Dhami by former BJP MLA Kailash Chandra Gahtori, took place on Tuesday.
In the recently held Assembly polls, BJP created history and won a clear majority with 47 out of total 70 seats, but Dhami lost the election from the Khatima seat to Congress candidate Bhuwan Chandra Kapri. With the party reposing faith in him and Dhami returning as chief minister, it was imperative that he get elected to the Uttarakhand Assembly within six months from the date he took over. Dhami was sworn in as chief minister of Uttarakhand on March 23.
Later, BJP MLA Kailash Chandra Gahtori, who won the Champawat seat in the Vidhan Sabha elections, resigned to make way for Dhami. Congress announced the name of senior party leader Nirmala as his candidate to contest against Dhami.
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Before the Champawat by poll, the BJP and several Congress party leaders had accepted that Dhami’s win was guaranteed as a sitting chief minister would be contesting from the seat. While campaigning for Dhami began earlier this week, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had stated that with Dhami reappointed the chief minister, it was destiny that the people of Champawat would get to vote for their CM as their MLA. Talking to The Indian Express, a senior Congress leader confessed that the Congress party was focussed on reducing the margin of victory for Dhami.
Nirmala Gahtori was picked after the Congress candidate from Champawat for the last five elections – ever since the formation of Uttarakhand – and two-time winner, Hemesh Kharkwal, declined to take part in what was likely to be a losing battle. The BJP got off the blocks for the race proclaiming that Congress has given it a “walkover”. Sources in Congress suggested that being in the mining business, the party’s first choice, Kharkwal, did not want to be on the wrong side of the CM and hence backed out of the contest.
Since the first Vidhan Sabha elections in Uttarakhand in 2002, the Champawat seat is always won by a candidate of the party with the highest number of seats. In the recent elections, Gahtori defeated Congress candidate Hemesh Kharkwal with a margin of over 5,300 votes to become a second-time MLA from the seat. In 2017, Kharkwal was defeated by Gahtori with a bigger margin of over 17,000 votes.
In the first three elections, the seat alternated between BJP and Congress. In the first assembly election in 2002, Kharkwal won the seat by defeating independent candidate Madan Singh by a narrow margin of 395 votes. In 2007, BJP’s Veena Maharana defeated Kharkwal by a margin of over 7,000 votes. Later in 2012, Congress candidate Kharkwal was the winning candidate while BSP candidate Madan Singh was the runner-up. BJP candidate Hema Joshi was a distant third.
After a BJP tenure from 2017 to 2022, marked by three different chief ministers, the by-poll victory of Dhami has paved way for him to continue on the seat for a full five-year term. So far, Narayan Dutt Tiwari was the only chief minister in Uttarakhand who completed his full five-year term.