In a huge blow to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Karnataka, Independent candidate B Sreeramulu Sunday won the Bellary (Rural) assembly bypolls.

Sreeramulu secured 74,527 votes and retained the seat which he had vacated, protesting denial of a ministerial berth in the DV Sadananda Gowda Ministry.

Congress candidate B Ramprasad got 27,737 votes while BJP candidate P Gadilingappa got only 17,366 votes.

Sreeramulu resigned his Assembly seat in August in the wake of the Lokayukta report on illegal mining that indicting him, saying his pride had been hurt. He was also angry that the BJP did not seek clarifications from him on the mining report. He bitterly criticized the party and vowed to decimate it in Bellary district.

The 40-year-old former health minister in the B S Yeddyurappa government quit the BJP days before the Nov. 30 by-election.

"I don't believe it's my victory; it's a victory of the people", Sreeramulu told reporters after the declaration of the result.