AAP’s Sushil Rinku wins Jalandhar Lok Sabha bypoll

Chandigarh: AAP candidate Sushil Rinku on Saturday won the Jalandhar Lok Sabha by-election, defeating his nearest rival and Congress nominee Karamjit Kaur Chaudhary by a margin of 58,691 votes.

Rinku polled 3,02,279 votes while Chaudhary secured 2,43,588, as per Election Commission data.

Shiromani Akali Dal candidate Sukhwinder Kumar Sukhi, who was also backed by the Mayawati-led BSP, was at the third spot, while BJP nominee Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal was at the fourth position.

“This is the victory of people. They have come to know that only the AAP can understand their pain and bring Punjab back on track. I thank the party leadership, including party supremo Arvind Kejriwal and (Punjab chief minister) Bhagwant Mann for reposing faith in me,” Rinku said after coming out of the counting centre.

The AAP vote share skyrocketed to 34.05% this time from 0.31% in the 2019 general election.

The Congress vote share dropped to 27.44% from 40.12% in 2019.

The SAD-BSP tie-up got 17.85% of the vote share, while in 2019, the SAD’s share was 27.45%, while the BSP’s was 3.49%.

However, the BJP’s vote share went up to 15.19% from 9.63% in 2019.

The byelection was necessitated after sitting Congress MP Santokh Chaudhary died due to a heart attack while taking part in the Punjab leg of the Bharat Jodo Yatra of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on January 14.

What worked for AAP: With its winning performance, the ruling AAP has not only breached the Congress-dominated citadel but its nominee Rinku, a key Dalit leader, has emerged as a force to reckon with in the Doaba region.

Rinku, a former Congress MLA, switched to the AAP on April 27, a day after which he was declared the AAP candidate.

The Lok Sabha byelection was a litmus test for the ruling party, especially after it lost the Sangrur parliamentary bypoll three months after coming to power in 2022.

Banking on its performance of 14 months and countering the anti-incumbency wave projected by the opposition, the ruling AAP went all out and carried out an extensive campaign led by Bhagwant Mann since the announcement of the elections.

The whole responsibility of managing the campaign was assigned to the party’s key Dalit face and Punjab finance minister Harpal Singh Cheema. Delhi chief minister and party supremo Kejriwal held roadshows in all nine assembly segments besides addressing a key rally in Jalandhar central segment.

The campaign revolved around the AAP’s populist agenda, including providing free 300 units of electricity, employment to 28,496 people in the first year of its tenure, opening of mohalla clinics and developments in the education sector.

The AAP’s strong stance against corrupt leaders and their activities, especially against former Congress ministers, went in its favour. AAP leaders focused on how the leaders of traditional parties siphoned off post-matric scholarship meant for Dalit students besides halting welfare schemes meant for Scheduled Castes.