A sitting opposition MLA who switched “loyalty”, pocket-borough of the ruling Badals and a divided Congress. There couldn’t have been a better recipe for success of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) candidate Jeet Mohinder Sidhu to return to state assembly with a higher victory margin.
Amid allegations of rigging of elections which even saw clashes between the Congress and SAD on polling day, Talwandi Sabo registered a high 82% polling. The high voter turnout has helped ‘turncoat’ Sidhu take his victory margin to 47,000 votes — his best so far — against long-time rival Harminder Singh Jassi. It is Sidhu’s fourth victory in a row and a third in direct clash between him and Jassi since 1997. Then a SAD candidate, Sidhu was defeated from Talwandi Sabo once in 1997 by Jassi.
Jassi barely managed to save his deposit by getting a little more over 25,000 votes out of nearly 1.18 lakh polled in the constituency. He also also lost Rama Mandi, a Congress stronghold with predominant Hindu votes. The verdict has further weakened the position of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committe (PPCC) chief Partap Singh Bajwa who spent around 20 days in Talwandi Sabo with his team from Majha.
It has also a setback for People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) founder Manpreet Singh Badal who had claimed to have lobbied to secure a ticket for Jassi from the Congress high command. Jassi had reportedly also followed Manpreet’s tested strategy of keeping his campaign low profile.
Manpreet’s men were deployed across the constituency and he himself spent a lot of time campaigning for him. The efforts of Aam Adami Party convener Arvind Kejriwal and its popular MP Bhagwant Mann too did not translate into votes and its candidate Baljinder Kaur lost her security deposit. She trailed even in her native village Jagga Ram Tirath where Jeet Mohinder secured 2244 votes against Baljinder’s 571 and Jassi’s 530 votes.
Jassi has termed the election as a “open loot”. “There was no fair play. They used all government machinery, money and muscle power to manage the results,” he said. AAP’s Baljinder Kaur, too alleged wide scale rigging and said that she would file an election petition against Jeet Mohinder’s election. Taking potshots at his opponents, Jeet Mohinder asked them to show some “sportsman spirit”. It would have been better if Jassi had accepted the mandate of people with humility. They should show sportsmanship, he said.
Jassi, whose daughter is married to Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s son, seems to have failed to muster many dera votes. The politically important dera had not declared its support for Jassi in the bypolls. On dera support, both Jassi and Sidhu steer clear of answers.
“All the votes have been cast for the Congress,” Jassi said while Sidhu claimed that he respects all sects.
A resolution for Sikhs to boycott the dera was passed by Takht Damdama Sahib Talwandi Sabo in 2007.
AAP candidate trails in own village
AAP candidate Baljinder Kaur trailed in her native village Jagga Ram Tirath. Jeet Mohinder secured 2,244 votes in Jagga against Baljinder’s 571 votes. Jassi secured 530 votes.