With Preneet Kaur's victory in the Patiala Urban bypoll, the Congress in Punjab has finally overcome a dry spell of more than six years to eclipse the ruling SAD-BJP alliance's winning streak in bypolls.
The Patiala verdict also marks the first time that a party in power has lost a bypoll in Punjab since 1998, when the Congress won the Adampur seat during the Akali Dal's regime.
Ever since, the trend of ruling parties emerging victorious has continued in the state.
The SAD has won all bypolls after it romped back to power in 2007, including the Jalalabad-contested by deputy chief minister and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal- Kahnuwan and Banur bypolls in 2009 during its previous tenure, and later the Dasuya and Moga bypolls after retaining power in the 2012 state elections.
Preneet's victory over Akali-BJP candidate Bhagwan Dass Juneja with a margin of 23,282 votes at her home ground Patiala has further consolidated the position of her husband and Amritsar MP Captain Amarinder Singh. He was elevated as the deputy leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha after defeating BJP stalwart Arun Jaitley at Amritsar.
The results have, however, come as a rude shock to the Aam Aadmi Party which had won the Patiala Lok Sabha seat just three months ago. AAP candidate Harjit Singh Adaltiwala lost his security deposit and secured only six percent votes.
Preneet secured 59.1% with 52,967 votes while SAD candidate Juneja secured a 33% vote share with 29,685 votes. Meanwhile, the AAP managed a paltry 5,724 votes.
The SAD's strategy to polarise the nearly 60% of electorate which is made up of Hindu voters by fielding a Hindu candidate failed to pay off.
Compared to the 2012 assembly polls, the SAD gained only 5,962 more votes this time. This too is attributed to the Juneja's image as a social worker in the city. With the city's lack of development and poor working of the municipal corporation went against the SAD. The party also lost out on the urban Sikh votes by fielding a Hindu candidate.
"The AAP voters were threatened and intimidated by the SAD and the Congress. So, many didn't turn up to vote. However, we will introspect on the results and take corrective measures," said AAP MP Dr Dharmvira Gandhi.
Captain away, hails wife's victory
Captain Amarinder Singh, who is in England in to launch his book, said the victory will prove to be a game changer in state politics and pave the way for the Congress government in the 2017 state polls.
"I congratulate people on this emphatic victory in Patiala. As I said earlier, this is a watershed bypoll. I am confident that it shall pave the way for the end of the Akali-BJP rule," said Amarinder.
The Amritsar MP had confined to Patiala during the last leg of the campaign and did not show up at Talwandi Sabo where his bete noire and Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa held the fort.