A battle of prestige as 4 assembly seats vote in bypolls in Punjab today
The poll results would serve as the barometer of Capt Amarinder Singh-led government’s policies and development programmes in the first half of its five-year tenure.Updated: Oct 21, 2019 07:51 IST
The Monday byelection on four assembly seats in Punjab — Jalalabad, Dakha, Mukerian and Phagwara — will serve as an acid test for all political parties in the fray.
For the ruling Congress that came to power in 2017, it’s a battle of prestige. The poll results would serve as the barometer of Capt Amarinder Singh-led government’s policies and development programmes in the first half of its five-year tenure.
The party will try to further consolidate its position, already having a two-thirds majority with 78 MLAs in the 117-member state legislative assembly. In 2017, it won 77 seats and added one more to its tally after winning the Shahkot bypoll a year later.
For the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance, the bypolls are an opportunity to stage a comeback after below par performance in 2017. While Akalis could win only 15 seats, its ally BJP won three assembly seats. Even first-timers Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) managed to win 20 seats while contesting in alliance with Lok Insaaf Party (LIP), which was victorious on two, in 2017.
For both the SAD-BJP combine and AAP, the bypolls are a high stakes contest before the state polls scheduled in 2022.
However, Akalis are fighting their worst crisis over their core Panthic vote bank slipping away after a series of incidents of sacrilege that began in 2015 during the SAD-BJP government. Both allies are contesting on two seats each — BJP on Phagwara (reserved for SC candidates) and Mukerian and SAD on Jalalabad and Dakha.
Dakha seat fell vacant after AAP’s HS Phoolka resigned and Mukerian is going to the bypolls after Congress’ Rakesh Kumar Babbi died following prolonged illness.
Jalalabad and Phagwara fell vacant after sitting MLAs SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal and BJP’s Som Parkash were elected to the Lok Sabha earlier this year.
During the campaigning that ended on Saturday, both Akalis and Congress leaders remained focused on Dakha, which has SAD’s moneybag Manpreet Singh Ayali and Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh’s aide Capt Sandeep Sandhu engaged in a direct contest.
In Mukerian, the BJP is giving a good fight to Congress with its moneybag Jangi Lal Mahajan pitted against Indu Bala, who is Rakesh Kumar Babbi’s widow and is expected to get sympathy vote due to the MLA’s untimely death.
In Phagwara, it’s a lackluster campaign with former Punjab Scheduled Castes Commission chairman Rakesh Bagha contesting on the BJP ticket against former bureaucrat Balwinder Singh Dhaliwal of the Congress.
In Jalalabad, the SAD bastion from where Sukhbir Badal was elected the MLA thrice before resigning on being elected to the Lok Sabha, the party has fielded Raj Singh Dibbipur, who belongs to Rai Sikh community that has a substantial number in the constituency.
Unlike the 2017 poll campaign, in which it received a huge support from the people of Punjab, AAP is facing a crisis like situation in the bypolls. The party is represented by Mohinder Singh Kachura in Jalalabad, youth wing president of Malwa region Amandeep Singh Mohi in Dakha, Santosh Kumar in Phagwara and Gurdhian Singh Multani in Mukerian.