Reading the Shahkot results: Loss in den hits SAD comeback plan

In the result declared on Thursday, the SAD-BJP candidate got 43,945 votes against Congress’ 82,747, losing by 38,802 votes.

punjab Updated: Jun 01, 2018 09:56 IST
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Shahkot results,Shahkot bypoll,SAD
SAD’s Naib Singh Kohar walking out of the counting centre before the results were declared in Shahkot on Thursday. (Pardeep Pandit/HT)

The trend of the state’s ruling party winning bypolls in Punjab may not be a surprise, but the place and scale of the Shiromani Akali Dal’s (SAD) loss in Shakot to the Congress may have shocked the opposition party — it got just over half of what the Congress got, and lost a seat that it had held for five elections.

The bypoll was necessitated by the death of SAD MLA Ajit Singh Kohar, whose son Naib Singh was fielded. In the result declared on Thursday, the SAD-BJP candidate got 43,945 votes against Congress’ 82,747, losing by 38,802 votes. In 2017, the SAD got 46,913 votes, defeating Hardev Singh Ladi Sherowalia of the Congress by a relatively slender margin of 4,905. Ladi has reversed that, and how!

This is the second defeat for the SAD-BJP alliance after the Capt Amarinder Singh-led government took power in the state in March last year, after 10 years of SAD-BJP rule. In October last, Congress won the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha bypoll, when Sunil Jakhar defeated BJP’s Swaran Salaria by a massive 1.9 lakh votes. This seat, too, was earlier with the SAD-BJP camp; death of BJP MP Vinod Khanna had necessitated the bypoll.

Now, SAD is reduced to 14 MLAs in the state assembly, while the BJP has three. It is, in terms of numbers, the secondary opposition after Aam Aadmi Party, which has 20 MLAs.

Having used its best bets, the panthic (religious) card and the legacy factor, the SAD appeared to be putting up a fight initially, but, as the polling day (May 28) approached, Congress surged. In its campaign, the SAD brought in discrepancies in the Class 12 history book, accusing the Congress government of taking out Sikh history from the textbook. But that did not work, nor did the sympathy factor for Kohar’s son as the SAD’s votes reduced as compared to 2017.

The SAD has claimed some success in pushing AAP to a negligible third entity here. The seat was earlier called Lohian and, after delimitation, was renamed to Shahkot.

SAD’s tallest leader, former CM Parkash Singh Badal, did not canvass owing to his age, and the campaign was led by party president Sukhbir Singh Badal, who was in Shahkot for a week. In a press statement, Sukhbir said, “The result doesn’t match the efforts the party has put in, because the civil and police officials toed the Congress line. Despite the odds, we put up a good fight.”

“Akali Dal continues to be the main opposition party,” stressed analyst Pramod Kumar, who is director of Institute for Development and Communication, adding, “Congress remained in an indomitable position as it is in government in the state.”

First Published: Jun 01, 2018 09:40 IST