Chandigarh, October 24: The ruling Congress won three Assembly seats, while the opposition Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) won one in the Punjab bypolls, the results of which were announced on Thursday.
While the Congress won the Jalalabad, Phagwara and Mukerian seats, the Akali Dal wrest Dakha from the Congress.
If the Congress managed to cause a major upset to the SAD in Jalalabad, considered to be a stronghold of the Akalis, the SAD dealt a blow to the grand old party by handing it a crushing defeat in Dakha.
With these victories, the Congress consolidated its position with 80 seats in the 117-member Punjab Assembly, where it enjoys a two-thirds majority now.
With the addition of Dakha, the tally of the Akalis in the House is now 14.
As the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost Phagwara, its strength in the House will now come down to two.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the main opposition party in the state, failed to make a mark in the bypolls.
In the 117-member Punjab Assembly, the Congress at present has 77 legislators. The SAD has 13 MLAs, while the AAP’s strength is 19. The BJP and the LIP have two MLAs each.
In what is being seen as a major victory for the ruling party in Jalalabad, Congress’s Raminder Awla defeated SAD’s Raj Singh Dibipura by a margin of 16,633 votes.
Awla polled 76,073 votes while Dibipura bagged 59,439.
Jalalabad was considered to be a citadel of the Akalis as the seat was represented in the Assembly by them since 2007. It was last represented by SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, whose election to the Lok Sabha from the Ferozepur parliamentary segment necessitated the bypoll.
Though the Congress won three seats, its defeat in Dakha, from where the party had fielded Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s trusted lieutenant Sandeep Sandhu, is being seen as a setback for the CM, who had taken out roadshows for Sandhu twice during campaigning.
In a blow to the ruling party, SAD’s Manpreet Singh Ayali defeated Sandhu from Dakha by a margin of 14,672 votes.
Touted as a battle of prestige for the ruling party, Sandhu was locked in a fierce poll contest with Ayali.
As the stakes were high for both the parties, the Congress did not leave any stone unturned for ensuring the victory of Sandhu, who was the political secretary to the chief minister. Several ministers as well as the local Ludhiana MP had campaigned for the Congress candidate.
On the other hand, the entire Akali leadership had campaigned for Ayali, though the opposition party had charged the state government with “highhandedness” and “misuse” of the official machinery to influence the voters in Dakha.
The seat fell vacant following the resignation of former AAP leader and Supreme Court lawyer H S Phoolka from the state Assembly.
The BJP suffered a setback in Phagwara, known as the saffron party’s pocket borough, as Congress candidate and former IAS officer Balwinder Singh Dhaliwal defeated the saffron party’s Rajesh Bagha by a comprehensive margin of 26,116 votes.
The seat was earlier represented by BJP’s Som Parkash. It fell vacant after Parkash was elected to the Lok Sabha in the general election held in April-May. He later became a Union minister.
Congress candidate Indu Bala won from Mukerian by defeating her nearest rival, BJP’s Jangi Lal Mahajan, by a margin of 3,440 votes.
The seat fell vacant following the death of Congress MLA Rajnish Kumar Babbi. Indu Bala is the widow of Babbi.
In the 2017 Assembly polls, while the SAD and the BJP had won the Jalalabad and Phagwara seats respectively, Mukerian and Dakha were won by the Congress and the AAP respectively.
The polling took place on October 21 for the four Assembly constituencies and it recorded an overall voter turnout of 65.57 per cent, which sealed the fate of 33 candidates.
The highest polling was registered in Jalalabad at 75.46 per cent, followed by 71.64 per cent in Dakha and 58.62 per cent in Mukerian.
The Phagwara (reserve) seat recorded a voter turnout of 55.97 per cent.