The high-stakes contest in Bathinda went down to the wire as sitting MP Harsimrat Badal defeated Congress candidate Manpreet Badal by a slender margin. Manpreet claimed a moral victory on coming out of the counting centre as Harsimrat had won the seat with a margin of 1.19 lakh votes in 2009 by defeating then Congress candidate Raninder Singh.
Manpreet, who was in an upbeat mood, stayed put at the counting centre till the last vote was counted. Later, he said, “This is no victory margin, especially when the entire state government was contesting on behalf of Harsimrat.
They bought votes, distributed liquor, used police and bureaucracy and every unethical mean to save the seat. But people have given the message as to who they love.”
No one from the Badal family came to the counting centre even after the result was declared. No senior Akali leader was seen there.
The media kept waiting for the Badal family for their reaction outside their house at native Badal village, but no one came out for comment. Workers were seen entering and leaving the house but they did not celebrate the victory.
Sources said deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal was annoyed with the Akali workers and leaders as the margin of victory was very less. Some youth Akali workers danced to the dhol beat outside the counting centre in Bathinda but senior workers and leaders stayed away from the celebrations.
Whereas workers and leaders visited Manpreet’s house in the evening and he met them with a big smile.
After the first round of counting, Manpreet was leading by 1,100 votes. Soon, Harsimrat took lead and was followed closely by Manpreet in other rounds. Akali workers remained tense as the counting in Mansa urban took place towards the end. Manpreet’s supporters remained in an upbeat mood throughout.
In Bathinda urban constituency, where Harsimrat undertook most development during her last tenure, she trailed by 29,000 votes. She was also behind in Bathinda rural and Mansa constituencies by 3,500 and 2,400 votes, respectively.
The SAD has sitting MLAs on all three seats. Manpreet followed Harsmirat closely in other constituencies except in Lambi, where Harsimrat led by 34,000 votes.