AFP file photo
Morbi: Just over a month after a bridge collapse claimed 135 lives, BJP's Kantilal Amrutiya on Thursday appeared on course to win from the Morbi assembly seat in Gujarat, taking an unassailable lead of over 16,000 votes over Congress rival Jaynatilal Patel.
Aam Aadmi Party's candidate Pankaj Ransariya was in the third spot with over 6,000 votes.
After the end of the ninth round of counting of votes for Morbi seat of Saurashtra region, Amtrutiya had polled more than 37,500 votes while Patel got more than 20,000 votes.
Amtrutiya had emerged as a savior in the bridge collapse tragedy. Videos of Amrutiya jumping into the river to rescue survivors had gone viral. The act earned Amrutiya nationwide praise and the sobriquet of "Morbi hero".
While Amrutiya had won from the Morbi segment five times in the past, Jayantilal Patel lost five times to BJP rivals in the previous elections.
The contest turned triangular this time with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) fielding Pankaj Ransariya, also a Patidar, but he failed to woo voters.
Morbi, dominated by Patidar voters, is considered a traditional stronghold of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The place came into the limelight after the British-era suspension bridge in the city collapsed into the Machchhu river on October 30, killing 135 people, a tragedy which was believed might change the poll equations.
Sensing that Amutiya's popularity will come in handy for the party, the BJP dropped its sitting MLA Brijesh Merja, a former minister, and fielded Amrutiya, who was otherwise not in the reckoning as a candidate.