As expected, the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) candidate Ravinder Singh Brahmpura emerged victorious in the Khadoor Sahib byelection, polling for which was held on February 13.
Trouncing his rivals, Brahmpura won by a record margin of 65,664 votes over his nearest independent rival Bhupinder Singh Bittu, a Congress rebel who contested as an independent after the party backed out. All other candidates, including Bittu, lost their security deposits.
The counting of votes commenced at 8 am on Tuesday at Sri Guru Angad Dev College and the result was out around 2 pm. Returning officer-cum-sub-divisional magistrate Ravinder Singh declared Brahmpura as the winner.
The SAD candidate took an early lead and by the eighth round of counting had established a lead of over 36,000 votes. There were 15 rounds of counting.
Of the total 1,09,593 votes polled, 83,080 went to Brahmpura, while Bittu polled 17,416 votes to finish second. Interestingly, as many as 2,252 voters pressed the NOTA (none of the above) button indicating that they favoured none of the seven candidates.
AAP rebel Sumail Singh Sidhu, who contested as an independent, fared poorly, managing just 2,243 votes to secure the third place.
Puran Singh Sheikh of Bahujan Samaj Party (Ambedkar) got 1,815 votes, while the other independents--Anantjit Singh Sandhu, Sukhdev Singh Khosla and Harjit Singh got 1,621, 677 and 489 votes, respectively.
With the Congress and AAP deciding not to contest, the victory of the SAD was a foregone conclusion. In the absence of these two parties, the campaign remained low key.
Former Khadoor Sahib MLA Ramanjit Singh Sikki of the Congress had appealed to voters to stay away from the bypoll saying the government had made no attempts to identify and apprehend the miscreants behind the sacrilege incident at Baath village in Khadoor Sahib last year. Sikki had quit the assembly seat following the incident, necessitating the bypoll.
The Congress had initially announced to contest the bypoll with Sikki as candidate, despite the former MLA being reluctant. However, it later decided against contesting saying the issue on which Sikki had quit was far more important to the party than the bypoll.
All through the campaign, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal asked his party leaders to ensure a heavy voter turnout and predicted that Brahmpura would win by a record margin. The voter turnout was far below the expectation of Akalis, with 58.46% of the 1.86 lakh voters exercising their franchise.
After the result, Brahmpura became emotional and was unable to speak; he folded his hands to acknowledge the support he had received from the party workers and voters. Akali supporters broke into a bhangra after the announcement of the result and some of them garlanded the winning candidate as he emerged from the counting centre.
Later, Brahmpura, along with his father and Khadoor Sahib MP Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, paid obeisance at Gurdwara Angitha Sahib here. The elder Brahmpura, who had served as a minister in the Badal cabinet in 1997 and 2007, had lost the Khadoor Sahib assembly seat to Sikki in the 2012 polls.
Interacting with the media, the junior Brahmpura thanked the voters who ignored the boycott call by Sikki and turned out in large numbers to ensure his victory. He said he would serve the people with the same dedication as his father had been doing for the past few years.
Agreeing that the victory margin was not on par with the expectations of his party, he said, “This is because the absence of the Congress and AAP led to voters losing interest in the bypoll and staying away from polling booths. So the voting percentage dipped, and so did out victory margin. Had the Congress contested, our victory margin would have been much better.”
Response to NOTA surprising
The voters’ response to the NOTA surprised all. Though the Congress and Kisan Sangharsh Committee had urged voters to stay away from the polling process, neither undertook the campaign to ask voters to make use of the NOTA option. More ‘votes’ went into the NOTA kitty than those received by Sumail Singh Sidhu, who finished third.