Despite there being no opposition in fray, the resounding, one-sided victory of Ravinder Singh Brahmpura in the Khadoor Sahib assembly bypoll could prove to be a morale-booster for the rank and file of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). The ruling party’s own tally goes up to 60 now, one more than a simple majority in the House of 117; its partner BJP has 12, while the Congress is now down to 42, and three seats remain with independents.
In the absence of two key players - Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) - from the contest, the challenge before the SAD was to convert what looked like an easy win anyway into a massive victory.
By winning this traditionally rural constituency of Majha that has a deep-seated Panthic ethos with a huge margin of 65,664 votes - the SAD got nearly 76% of the votes counted - the SAD would like it to be seen as a loud message about its grip over the electorate in spite of an anti-incumbency sentiment.
The Khadoor Sahib bypoll was the first electoral test for Akalis following a series of sacrilege incidents of the Guru Granth Sahib in November last which had triggered protests across the state against the Parkash Singh Badal government. The sitting Congress MLA, Ramanjit Singh Sikki, had resigned on the same issue, leading to the bypoll. The Congress, however, boycotted the election citing inaction in the sacrilege incidents.
The victory margin of the Brahmpura Junior - his father is MP Ranjit Singh Brahmpura - is significant keeping in view the fact that in the 2012 assembly elections Congress’ Sikki had won this seat by 3,054 votes. While Sikki was polled 66,902 votes, Ranjit Brahmpura had got 63,848 votes.
Out of the total 1.09 lakh votes that came up for counting, 83,080 voted for Brahmpura, 17,416 for Bittu, an independent candidate and a Congress rebel. Meanwhile, former AAP state convener Sumail Singh Sidhu, who contested as an independent candidate, could only get 2243 votes, which was lower than the number of voters who pressed the NOTA (None Of The Above) button at 2252.
The constituency had seen low voter turnout of 58.46% on Saturday. This was much lower than the 80.74% recorded in 2012, and even the 68.94% recorded in this segment during the Lok Sabha polls in 2014.
Earlier, Sikki too had appealed voters to stay away from the polling process, as the government had allegedly made no attempts to identify and apprehend the miscreants who were behind the sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib in Baath village in Khadoor Sahib, last year.
With the general elections to the state assembly scheduled in early next year, the Akalis made all out appeals to the 1.87 lakh electorates to move out of their homes and head for the polling stations. All through the polling day, Akali leaders were seen asking the voters to exercise their franchise.
Barring the loss suffered in 2012 from Khadoor Sahib and from the Valtoha (now Khem Karan) assembly segment in 2002, SAD has never lost any other assembly poll from the Jat-Sikh dominated Tarn Taran district since 1997. The poll percentage had never dipped to such a low in the byelections held in Dasuya, Moga, Talwandi Sabo, Patiala and Dhuri assembly constituency in the recent past.
While the ruling Akali Dal candidate Ravinder Singh Brahmpura was polled 83,080 votes, all the five independents and BSP (Ambedkar) candidate together were polled 19037 votes in this one sided contest. Of the total 19037 votes polled for independents, the Congress rebel Bhupinder Singh got 17,416 votes.
Interestingly, 2252 voters pressed the ‘None of the Above’ buttons.
Hence, SAD candidate was declared winner by a margin of 65,664 votes.
Total votes polled: 1,09,593
None of the Above: 2252
Total Valid Votes: 107341
BSP (Ambedkar) Puran Singh Seikh: 1815
Bhupinder Singh: 17416
Dr Sumail Singh Sidhu: 2243
Anantjit Singh Sandhu: 1621
Sukhdev Singh Khosla: 677
Harjit Singh: 489
(Inputs by HTC)