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HindustanTimes Tue,16 Sep 2014

Punjab bypolls: stakes high for Patiala royal family, Akalis

PTI  Chandigarh, August 24, 2014
First Published: 18:22 IST(24/8/2014) | Last Updated: 08:32 IST(25/8/2014)

Stakes are high for the royal family of Patiala and the ruling Akalis as the results of the bypolls to Patiala and Talwandi Sabo Assembly seats in Punjab are to be declared tomorrow.

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The results will have a bearing on the political fortunes of former Union minister and wife of Congress MP Amarinder Singh, Preneet Kaur, and the ruling Akalis who are facing anti-incumbency.

The bypolls to Patiala, necessitated after Amarinder got elected to the Lok Sabha from Amritsar seat, witnessed a triangular contest between Preneet Kaur, Bhagwan Dass of SAD and Harjeet Singh of AAP.

While a total of eight contestants are in fray for Patiala seat, there are seven candidates from Talwandi Sabo.

Preneet Kaur had lost the Lok Sabha polls to AAP's Dharamvira Gandhi from Patiala.

The bypolls to Talwandi Sabo, necessitated after sitting MLA Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu quit Congress to join SAD, too witnessed a triangular contest between Congress's Harminder Singh Jassi, SAD's Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu and AAP's Baljinder Kaur, while Balkar Singh, who was initially declared as AAP candidate, contested as Independent.

In the 117-member Punjab Assembly, ruling SAD has a strength of 56 MLAs, while its ally BJP has 12, Congress 44 members and independents three.

To gain simple majority, SAD requires two more members to take its tally to 58.

While Amarinder had campaigned extendsively for Preneet in Patiala with other party leaders, his bete noire and Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa confined himself to Talwandi Sabo for Jassi, a close relative of Sira-based Dera Sacha Sauda Sect head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

Both chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son and deputy Sukhbir Singh Badal left no stone unturned as they campaigned vigourosly for their pary candidate and "turncoat" Sidhu in Talwandi Sabo.

The bypolls to the two seats were held on August 21 amid allegations of rigging and "misuse" of official machinery by ruling Akalis were made by opposition Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

While Talwandi Sabo, which falls under Bathinda Lok Sabha constituency from where Sukhbir's wife Harsimrat Kaur won, witneesed 82.34 per cent turnout, 60 per cent polling was recorded in Patiala seat, a traditional bastion of Patiala royal family of Amarinder.

Reportedly there has been friction between SAD and BJP over some issues.

A senior state BJP leader had in June questioned Badal's meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi without any BJP leaders from the state over the issue of Punjabis stranded in Iraq.

In another incident, SAD had asked BJP minister Anil Joshi not to politicise the 'advance tax on stocks' rolled out by the Punjab government.

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