Cong beats Akali Dal
Chandigarh: The ruling Congress in Punjab has wrested the Shahkot Assembly seat from the Akali Dal, ending the rival's run of five successive victories in the constituency, as party nominee Hardev Singh Laddi Sherowalia romped home with a margin of 38,802 votes.
The Aam Aadmi Party, the main Opposition, managed only 1,900 votes, according to the bypoll results announced on Thursday.
The Congress now has 78 seats in the 117-member Assembly - which gives the party a two-thirds majority - while the Akali Dal-BJP combine's tally slipped to 17.
If the Akali Dal lost a bastion to arch-rival Congress, the drubbing the AAP received in Shahkot could raise questions on the party's decision to extend its footprint in neighbouring Haryana, where elections are due next year.
The AAP had polled around 41,000 votes in Shahkot in last year's Assembly elections, but the votes this time appear to have gone to the Congress's kitty as the Akali Dal candidate got 43,395 votes, a few thousand down from its 2017 tally of around 46,000.
The seat had fallen vacant after the death of sitting Akali MLA Ajit Singh Kohar, who had won from the constituency by a margin of 4,905 votes despite a Congress wave.
Kohar's son Naib Singh, the Akali Dal candidate, alleged that electronic voting machines had been rigged.
Sherowalia, who polled over 80,000 votes, had been booked in an illegal mining case the day his nomination was announced. But despite the reservations a section of Congress leaders had about Sherowalia, party seniors had presented a united face.
"People do not want the BJP. Poll results everywhere are showing the same. Shahkot could not be any different as the Akalis and the BJP are partners. We now have a two-thirds majority in the Assembly," Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh said.
While the Congress had put in every effort to win the seat, no key national or state leader had campaigned for the AAP nominee, Ratan Singh Kakar Kalan.
"We will introspect on the reasons behind this dismal performance," Balbir Singh, the party's Punjab unit second-in-command, said.