Dhuri bypoll defeat: Barnala's political career in jeopardy
The result of the April 11 assembly byelection here has strengthened the position of Punjab's one political family and weakened another.
The state's ruling family and its heir apparent, Sukhbir Singh Badal, have gained by the victory, while the defeat has put a question mark on political career of their rivals, the Barnalas, whose desperate attempt for political revival by joining hands with the Congress ended in a fiasco. Simar Pratap Singh Barnala, from the new generation of his family, lost the clan's stronghold seat.
The Barnalas, once a force to reckon with in state politics, are in political oblivion since deserting the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), party that Simar Pratap's grandfather, Surjit Singh Barnala, led in the 1980s to later become Punjab CM and minister in the Union government. Barnala's son, Gagandeep Singh, Akali legislator in 2002, failed to take the political legacy forward.
Three back-to-back defeats - setback to the son in the 2007 and 2012 assembly elections and the debacle for the grandson now - will jolt even the seasoned politician in Barnala. The attempt to field the third generation has flopped. Gagandeep and his son have blamed the defeat on the division in the Congress and the Akalis' purchasing votes, but Simar Pratap lost both booths even his native village of Kakarwal, where SAD candidate Gobind Singh Longowal beat him with a collective lead of 235 votes.
Asked what lay ahead, Gagandeep Barnala said: "The results won't affect the political future of the family, as everyone knows that the election was not fair. The family will bounce back in Punjab politics. Everyone knows that Barnala family has always done politics the honesty way and fought for Punjab's interests."
"This election was Simar Pratap versus the entire Punjab government camping in Dhuri constituency for almost a month. It distributed about `70 crore as official grants and bought votes with black money; so the results was not a setback," he said.
The polling-station-wise result shows that the SAD has not only won the seat but also reversed the trend of the 2014 Lok Sabha contest. It won 157 of 166 polling booths in the constituency, while Congress won only nine. In 2014, the SAD had won only four and the Congress 12. At that time, the Aam Aadmi Party had won 150 booths. This time, the AAP did not contest.