State minister Navjot Singh Sidhu says it’s a Diwali gift for Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who will soon take over party reins. "We have sent a beautiful Diwali gift packed with red ribbon to our would-be president Rahul Gandhi because it sets the tone.... It will be a shot in the arm for the Congress. This (victory) is a big slap on the face of 'jeeja-saala' (Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Badal and Bikram Singh Majithia). Today the BJP will realise that Akali Dal in Punjab has become a burden. Time and again people have reprimanded them. It will be demoralising and send them (SAD-BJP) packing."
The trends are worrying for BJP’s Swaran Salaria who waited long for a chance to contest the Gurdaspur bypoll. Despite huge investment in terms of time and money, he now finds himself trailing, bringing into question the role played by former deputy CM Sukhbir Badal, who managed the poll campaign for the BJP-Akali Dal combine.
In first reaction since counting for the Gurdaspur bypoll began, Congress candidate Sunil Jakhar says the trends are a “message” for the Narendra Modi government.
AAP candidate Major General (Retd) Suresh Khajuria, who is trailing at the third place, has accused the Congress of using "undemocratic means" in the bypoll. "Ruling party used undemocratic means in these elections. People were scared and youth was almost absent in the bypoll. If they (Congress) win then that victory will not be a respectable one," Khajuria alleges.
Congress candidate Sunil Jakhar, who is now leading in the bypoll counting, had called the election a referendum on the Modi government. Said to be close to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, he was the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly before Congress returned to power this year. The son of former Lok Sabha speaker Balram Jakhar, Sunil’s nomination to the seat was not without controversy as the Congress overlooked local strongman and Rajya Sabha MP Partap Bajwa’s wife. Bajwa is a former Gurdaspur MP.
RECAP | The result will decide the fate of total 11 candidates, including Congress nominee Sunil Jakhar, BJP's Swaran Salaria and AAP's Major General (retd) Suresh Khajuria. The high-stakes Gurdaspur Lok Sabha bypoll recorded a 56 per cent voter turnout on October 11, lower than 70.03 per cent recorded in the 2014 general elections. Out of nine assembly segments falling in Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat, Dera Baba Nanak Vidhan Sabha constituency had registered maximum voting percentage at 65 per cent, while the Batala Vidhan Sabha constituency had witnessed lowest voting percentage at 50 per cent, official said. The polling percentage in the nine assembly segments was also lower than what was recorded in 2017 assembly elections.
Congress candidate Sunil Jakhar had earlier claimed the Gurdaspur bypoll would be a "referendum" on the Narendra Modi government. The BJP had also tried pulling out all the stops to retain the seat, which actor Vinod Khanna had won four times on its ticket. A victory would give much-needed boost to the BJP, which had bagged just one segment of Sujanpur out of the four seats it had contested in the Assembly polls. The AAP, the main opposition party in Punjab with 20 seats in the Assembly, was also looking to strengthen its presence in the state with victory in the bypoll.
There is tight security outside the two counting centres in the state. As per the Election Commission directive, all liquor shops in Gurdaspur would remain closed. No hotel, restaurant, liquor shop or any eating joint, even with a licence, would be allowed to serve or sell liquor today.
The Gurdaspur parliamentary seat has nine assembly segments — Bhoa, Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Dinanagar, Qadian, Fathegarh Churian, Dera Baba Nanak, Sujanpur and Batala. Counting centres have been set up at Sukhjindra College Gurdaspur for the six assembly constituencies and for the rest three constituencies of Pathankot district, it has been set up at the SD College in Pathankot. In view of the counting, the Election Commission has announced a complete prohibition on sale and supply of liquor in Gurdaspur.
Counting of votes for the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha bypoll in Punjab is set to begin shortly with the results being seen as a barometer of the six-month-old Congress government’s popularity in the state. The bypoll, necessitated by the death of actor-turned-politician Vinod Khanna, was contested by Congress's Punjab unit chief Sunil Jakhar, BJP's Swaran Salaria and AAP's Major General (retd) Suresh Khajuria. The results are expected to declared by noon.
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