The ruling BJP on Thursday won the high-stakes Jind bypoll in Haryana after defeating its nearest rival from Jannayak Janata Party by nearly 13,000 votes, while Congress ended up at the third spot.
BJP candidate Krishan Middha won by a margin of 12,935 votes, wresting the seat from the main opposition Indian National Lok Dal, which was decimated in the by-election.
The JPP had fielded 27-year-old Digvijay Singh Chautala, the son of former Member of Parliament (MP) Ajay Singh Chautala and younger brother of Hisar MP Dushyant Chautala.
All three were expelled by Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) supremo and patriarch, Om Prakash Chautala for anti-party activities before they floated a new political party.
The Congress, which had fielded its senior leader Randeep Singh Surjewala, sitting MLA from Kaithal, ended up at the third spot.
Talking to reporters earlier in Chandigarh, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar predicted his party's victory, saying the people would give their mandate in favour of "the BJP's transparent policies and all round development of the state."
Middha (48) is a BAMS doctor, whose father's death necessitated the bypoll.
The BJP's victory appeared likely after the fourth round of counting, when Middha took a lead of over 10,000 votes.
Krishan Middha's father Hari Chand Middha had twice represented Jind assembly segment as INLD candidate. Krishan Middha, however, had recently joined the BJP.
Surjewala, on the other hand, remained tied at third spot.
In a setback for main opposition Indian National Lok Dal, which held the seat, its candidate Umed Singh Redhu relegated to the fifth spot, even behind newly floated Loktantra Suraksha Party (LSP).
Led by BJP's rebel MP Raj Kumar Saini, LSP had fielded Vinod Ashri as its candidate.
Counting of votes for the bypoll had began at 8 am Thursday amid tight security arrangements.
The counting, however, had to be halted for a brief period during the seventh round, when polling agents of some opposition parties levelled allegations of “mismatch of serial numbers of two Electronic Voting Machines”.
Police also had to resort to mild cane charge to disperse the protesting opposition parties' workers, who gathered outside the counting centre and created ruckus over the mismatch.
Jind Deputy Commissioner-cum-Returning Officer Khatri rejected the allegations of mismatch of serial numbers.
“There is no such issue. It is a clerical issue which they are raising. The counting of votes has re-started,” Khatri said.
Twenty-one candidates, including two women, had contested the Jind assembly constituency bypoll, held on January 28, when a healthy voter turnout of 75.77 per cent was reported. The bypoll was dubbed as a prestige battle for the ruling BJP, the Congress and the INLD ahead of the parliamentary and assembly polls.
The bypoll was held just months ahead of the Lok Sabha and assembly elections in Haryana making it even more important.
Arch-rivals BJP, the Congress, INLD and JJP had been eyeing the results as a self-assessment exercise ahead of Lok Sabha polls this year.
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(With PTI inputs)