Congress leads in Shahkot Assembly bypoll in Punjab

CHANDIGARH: The Congress today made major gains in the Shahkot Assembly by-election in Punjab with its candidate Hardev Singh Ladi leading by over 21,000 votes over his nearest rival, Shiromani Akali Dal’s Naib Singh Kohar, after nine rounds of counting, officials said.
Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) candidate Rattan Singh Kakkar Kalan was trailing far behind the Congress and the Akali Dal.
The votes would be counted over 17 rounds, an official said.
The Shahkot bypoll was necessitated by the death of Akali MLA Ajit Singh Kohar, Naib Singh Kohar’s father, in February this year.
As trends showed Ladi in the lead by 21,004 votes in what is considered an Akai bastion, workers of Punjab’s ruling party started celebrating, distributing sweets at the Punjab Congress Bhawan here and dancing to drumbeats in Chandigarh and in Jalandhar.
“The people of Punjab, especially voters of Shahkot, have once again put their stamp of approval on the policies of the Punjab government under the leadership of Captain Amarinder Singh. They have also shown the Akali Dal their place,” Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar told reporters in Jalandhar.
Jakhar, the Lok Sabha MP from Gurdaspur, also questioned the leadership of SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal following their “defeat” in their stronghold Shahkot.
The Akali Dal, he said, has been ruling the Shahkot Assembly constituency for the last 20 years.
“… The Akali Dal will have to see whether they will accept the leadership of Sukhbir Badal. Akali Dal has faced consistently faced humiliating defeat, be it the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha bypoll, the Shahkot bypoll today and also the civic polls,” said Jakhar.
He said the people of Shahkot had “broken the arrogance of Akali Dal and its leadership”.
His party colleague, state cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, also took a dig at Sukhbir and his brother-in-law and former minister Bikram Singh Majithia, saying the defeat of the Akali Dal was imminent wherever ‘jija-saala’ were present.
“Congress won the Shahkot bypoll by destroying the Akali bastion,” said Sidhu, predicting victory for the party.
The counting process for the Shahkot assembly constituency bypoll began at 8 am in Jalandhar in the presence of the election observer, candidates of the political parties and their representatives today amid tight security arrangements.
The counting centre was set up at the office of the director, Land Records, in Jalandhar.
Three-tier security arrangements were made to ensure peaceful counting of vote, an official said.
More than 300 police personnel were deployed at the counting centre to ensure that the counting proceeds smoothly, the official said.
Over 76 per cent of 1.72 lakh voters exercised their franchise for the May 28 bypollwhere the Congress, SAD and AAP were locked in a triangular battle.
The bypoll is being seen as a barometer for the popularity of the 14-month-old Congress government of Amarinder Singh.
The opposition Akali Dal, striving to retain its pocket borough from where the late Kohar was elected five times, had accused the ruling party of misusing official machinery against its political opponents.
The Election Commission had used EVMs and VVPATs at the all the 236 polling stations.
The Congress had won 77 seats in the 117-member Punjab Vidhan Sabha during 2017 Assembly polls while the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance managed to win 18 seats. The AAP won 20 seats while Lok Insaf Party had bagged two seats. (AGENCIES)

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