Punjab assembly elections saw nerve-biting contests as winners edged out their rivals in as many as 10 seats by margins as low as 265 votes.
Congress, which had after 2012 polls complained that about 21,000 votes cost it dear, turned out to be the biggest beneficiary this time, bagging six of the closely-contested seats.
AAP, whose entry made the elections a three-cornered battle and cut into the votes of major parties, won two of the seats as did the SAD-BJP alliance.
Devinder Singh Ghubaya of Congress was the luckiest as he defeated BJP’s Surjit Kumar Jyani by just 265 seats in Fazilka.
Here, AAP was very much in fight, but an independent candidate cut into the vote bank of both BJP and Congress which made it a four-cornered fight.
Shiromani Akali Dal’s (SAD) Lakhbir Singh Lodhinangal won Batala by only 485 votes, beating Congress’s Ashwani Sekhri.
Punjab AAP convener Gupreet Singh Warriach Ghuggi came third, but not before cutting into Sekhri’s votes.
His party failed to make headway in the region, Majha, due to the presence of strong leadership of Congress and Akali Dal, but it worked as a vote cutter. The benefit of this went to the Akalis as AAP ate into Congress’s traditional vote bank: the economically poor and Dalits.
Former SAD leader, Pritam Singh Kotbhai, who contested on a Congress ticket emerged lucky over AAP’s Jagsir Singh in Bhucho Mandi. His margin of victory was only 645 votes.
Congress strongmen, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and Tripat Rajinder Bajwa won similar tight contests.
At Dera Baba Nanak, Randhawa defeated former SAD minister Sucha Singh Langah by 1,194 votes as AAP got votes from areas where Congress was anticipating its lead. Bajwa’s margin was only 1,999 votes.
“Here in Majha, AAP ate into Dalit and Christian dominated vote bank, a traditional vote bank of Congress. Thus margins remained very tight and even SAD managed to win Batala where Lodhianangal trailed in almost 12 out of 14 rounds,” said Balwinder Singh, a political observer.
In urban constituencies, Ludhiana East, Moga and Banga, where AAP has strong presence, it lost the seats by thin margins. Ludhiana East and Moga were bagged by Congress while Banga went to Akali Dal.