Having conceded the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha election in 2014 to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress on Sunday was once again able to wrest the seat by recording an impressive victory margin of 1.93 lakh votes.
The bye-election, necessitated after the demise of BJP MP Vinod Khanna, who had won by a 1.35 lakh vote margin, turned out to be a cakewalk for the Congress candidate and state unit chief, Sunil Kumar Jakhar. He polled 4,99,752 votes against the 3,06,553 votes cast for runner-up and BJP candidate Sawarn Singh Salaria. AAP candidate Suresh Khajuria couldn’t save his security deposit after receiving just 23,579 votes.
The previous record for the highest margin of victory in Gurdaspur was held by former Congress MP Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder, who had won with a margin of 1.51 lakh votes in 1980. Sunday’s landslide win for the Congress holds importance ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election, with the party hailing it as the “people’s mandate” against the BJP.
“I had said it from the very first day that this election will be a mandate on the policies of union government led by Modi. People have vent their anger against demonetisation and GST by making me an MP with a huge margin of votes. I had asked people to vote for me and against BJP’s economic and communal agenda. People have responded to my call and it has sent a clear message to union government on the behalf of whole country that people are fed up from its policies and it is time for change,” Jakhar said.
“This election is also victory of development agenda of Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh led state government. The wavier of farmers loan and steps to revive economy of Punjab. People have honoured Congress government for work done in last six months in state,” he added.
After tasting a humiliating defeat in Gurdaspur in 2014, the Congress did not leave any stone unturned to win the bye-election. Former PPCC president Partap Singh Bajwa had lost in all of the nine Assembly segments in 2014, including his home turf Qadian, which is represented by his MLA wife Charanjit Kaur Bajwa.
Gurdaspur Lok Sabha constituency comprises of nine assembly constituencies — Gurdaspur, Dinanagar, Qadian, Dera Baba Nanak, Sujanpur, Fatehgarh Churian, Bhoa, Batala and Pathankot.
Jakhar, however, has won from all the nine segments even though the Congress had lost from Sujanpur and Batala in the recent assembly elections. The seat was considered a Congress pocket borough before BJP handpicked a celebrity in Khanna in 1998. Vinod Khanna had won from the segment in 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2014.
A united face put up by the party, with Bajwa, who had earlier stayed away from the poll campaign, working in favour of Jakhar, and several other factors worked for the party. Former Akali minister Sucha Singh Langah’s sleazy video and the registration of a rape case against him is believed to have contributed to the Congress’ victory. Jakhar recorded a margin of 21,000 votes from Bajwa’s Qadian, silencing the former PCC chief’s detractors who claimed that he was not doing enough to ensure the party’s victory.
Meanwhile, BJP candidate Salaria claimed the Congress rigged the election.
“I congratulate Sunil Jakhar on his victory. At the same time, everyone knows that Congress has won this election by rigging. Government machinery was on misused to influence voters. All the officials were given targets. There was clear warning for the people that they would be implicated in false police cases if they votes for BJP,” he said.
While AAP candidate Khajuria repeated his party’s stand on EVMs. “Congress has done everything to win this election. They have tempered with EVM machines. They have uses police to keep voters at home,” he said.
Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu attempted to shift the blame on Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal and his brother-in-law former cabinet minister Bikram Singh Majithia for BJP’s defeat.
“It is defeat of jija-sala. People have shown them their place. Now both have become burden on BJP. Such a huge defeat is evidence of the same. The victory of Congress is such a slap in the face of jija-sala that its voice will be heard in Delhi,” said Sidhu.
Election result proof of Congress revival in national politics: Punjab CM Amarinder Singh
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has hailed the Congress victory in Gurdaspur, and termed it as a complete rejection of the anti-people policies of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ally, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
“The massive win for Congress candidate Sunil Jakhar shows the people’s complete denunciation of the corrupt and immoral BJP and SAD,” said Captain Amarinder, adding that it also underlined the political annihilation of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the state.
Captain Amarinder thanked the voters of Gurdaspur for their overwhelming love and support from all parts of Gurdaspur, especially the rural areas.
“The over 1.93 lakh margin of victory has not only more than compensated for the 1.36 lakh vote defeat of Congress candidate Pratap Singh Bajwa against BJP’s Vinod Khanna in 2014 but has surpassed even the 1.51 lakh lead by which Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder (Congress) had won in 1980,” Said Captain.
Jakhar’s victory comes as a strong rebuttal to the persistent Akali efforts and campaign of the past six months to undermine the work being done by his government in the state, he added.
For AAP, this election marks the end of its political ambitions in Punjab, Captain Amarinder said, pointing out that the dissolution of the Pathankot and Gurdaspur units of AAP a day before the declaration of the results showed that the party had conceded defeat and had accepted that it had completely failed to connect with the people of the state.
Captain Amarinder said the people wanted development, which only the Congress could give them. The people were completely aware of the welfare initiatives taken by the Congress government since taking over the state’s reins in March this year, he said, adding that they had full faith in the government’s commitment to their progress.
Captain Amarinder said the Gurdaspur result once again showed that the Congress was on the path of revival across the country. “The party’s recent victory in several university students’ union elections and its resounding win in the Maharashtra civic polls just two days ago were clear indicators that the party’s fortunes were on the upswing and the result of the Gurdaspur bypoll further strengthened its prospects for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections,” he added.