RAIPUR, 27 JUNE: Already racked by a bitter factional feud, the infighting in the Congress is set to intensify with the crushing debacle of its official candidate for a bypoll in Keshkal, 18 km from the dreaded Darbha ambush spot which claimed the lives of PCC chief Nand Kumar Patel and octogenarian leader V C Shukla among 28 others.
The bypolls, though only for the posts of president of Keshkal and Baagbahara Nagar Panchayats, assumes significance as the Congress, riding on the sympathy wave generated after the Darbha attack, was expecting a smooth win.
However, Congress rebel Shahina Saleem Memon, a staunch loyalist of former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi, shattered the hopes of a much needed morale-booster for the frustrated cadres, by winning the poll with a huge margin.
Congress candidate Mamta Chandrakar who had complained of Amit Jogi having campaigned in favour of the rebel candidate, could secure only 457 votes out of 9143 votes polled. The Jogi camp however strongly refuted the allegation and Mr Amit Jogi has also served a defamation notice to Ms Chandrakar.
Stung party leaders have their own set of explanations. Questioning the higher voters turn-out of more than 90 per cent, the acting head of PCC, Mr Charan Das Mahant smelt a rigged poll. While Mr Jogi expressed his deep concerns for the party losing a crucial pre-assembly polls, but his overjoyed supporters and flocked to his residence soon after the results were announced.
The debacle, believes analysts, is likely to  a fresh round of inter-party feud. Mr Mahant, many believe, erred by denying a ticket to Shahina Memon, merely because she was considered a Jogi loyalist. sns