The Congress is ahead in the three seats of Jalalabad, Phagwara and Mukerian, while the SAD is leading in Dakha in the bypolls to four assembly seats of Punjab, as per early trends. Congress nominee Balwinder Singh Dhaliwal is leading over his nearest rival and BJP nominee Rajesh Bagha by a margin of 1,852 votes from Phagwara seat, according to initial trends. From Mukerian seat, BJP nominee Jangi Lal Mahajan is trailing by 212 votes against his nearest rival and Congress candidate Indu Bala.
Shiromani Akali Dal candidate Manpreet Singh Ayali is also leading over his nearest rival and Congress nominee Sandeep Sandhu from Dakha assembly seat by 759 votes, as per initial trends. From Jalalabad, Congress candidate Raminder Awla is ahead of SAD candidate Raj Singh Dibipura by 5,936 votes. Counting of votes for the bypolls to four assembly seats in Punjab is underway, amid tight security arrangements. The counting began at 8 am, officials said.
An overall turnout of 65.57 per cent was recorded in the bypolls for the for the four assembly seats, for which a total of 33 candidates were in fray.
The highest polling was witnessed in Jalalabad at 75.46 per cent, followed by 71.64 per cent in Dakha and 58.62 per cent in Mukerian. Phagwara reserve seat recorded a voter turnout of 55.97 per cent. As compared to assembly elections in 2017, these four seats witnessed drop in voting percentage this time.
The Congress and the SAD-BJP combine are being seen as key contenders in the state bypolls. The bypolls are being seen as a litmus test for the acceptability of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh-led Congress government’s programmes and policies during its tenure for the last two and half years.
The Congress also see it as an opportunity to further consolidate its position in the assembly by winning all these seats.
The poll outcome would also decide whether the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance and Aam Aadmi Party could stage a comeback in these by-polls. While the SAD contested the Jalalabad and Dakha seats, its ally BJP fielded candidates in Phagwara and Mukerian.
The contest on the Dakha seat was seen as keen one as the Congress fielded Sandeep Sandhu, the political secretary of chief minister against SAD nominee Manpreet Singh Ayali. Both parties utilised all their resources to register victory in this seat.
The importance of this seat could also be gauged from the fact that Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had himself held two roadshows in favour of Sandhu who has been Singh’s trusted lieutenant.?
The entire Akali leadership had canvassed in favour of Ayali. On the polling day, a firing incident had also taken place in Dakha in which one of Akali workers sustained bullet injuries.
The Akali Dal had charged the state government with alleged highhandedness and misuse of official machinery to influence voters in this seat.
The Dakha seat fell vacant following the resignation of former AAP leader and noted Supreme Court lawyer H S Phoolka from the state assembly.
In Phagwara (reserve), the main contest was between Congress candidate and former IAS officer Balwinder Singh Dhaliwal and BJP’s Rajesh Bagha. Besides, the AAP, BSP and the Lok Insaaf Party have also fielded their candidates.
The Phagwara seat fell vacant after sitting MLA Som Parkash was elected to the Lok Sabha from Hoshiarpur.
In Jalalabad, considered as an Akali bastion, there was a straight contest between SAD’s Raj Singh Dibipura and Congress’ Raminder Singh Awla. A former Congress leader Jagdeep Singh Kamboj fought elections as an independent candidate.
The Jalalabad seat fell vacant after sitting MLA and SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal was elected to the Lok Sabha from Ferozepur parliamentary segment in the 2019 general election.
From Mukerian, the BJP has fielded Jangi Lal Mahajan. The Congress nominee is Indu Bala, the wife of the late Congress MLA Rajnish Kumar Babbi, whose death necessitated the byelection.
In the 2017 assembly elections, while the SAD and the BJP had won Jalalabad and Phagwara seats, the Congress and the AAP had registered victories over Mukerian and Dakha seats respectively.
In the 117-member Punjab Assembly, the Congress at present has 77 legislators. The SAD has 13 MLAs while the strength of AAP legislators is 19. The BJP and LIP have two MLAs each.