AGENCY Chandigarh: Congress has won eight parliamentary seats in Punjab, bucking the pro-Modi trend seen across northern and central India in this general election. Out of the total 13 seats in the state, Congress romped home to impressive victory on eight seats, surprising both the SAD-BJP combine and the Aam Aadmi Party and improving its tally from three in 2014. It had won Gurdaspur in a bypoll in 2017. The Akali Dal-BJP alliance won on four seats and the AAP was leading on one. SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, Bollywood actor Sunny Deol, Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, former Union ministers Manish Tewari and Preneet Kaur, and Ravneet Singh Bittu were among the prominent leaders who won in Punjab. Major upsets in the poll outcome were Union minister and BJP nominee Hardeep Singh Puri, Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar and SAD candidate Prem Singh Chandumajra. Akali Dal managed to win only two seats against four it pocketed in last general election. BJP won Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur but failed again to break the “jinx” of not winning Amritsar. AAP appeared routed from Punjab, leading on only one seat out of the 13 it contested. It had surprised many in 2014 Lok Sabha election when it had won four seats in the state. In 2014 polls, while the SAD-BJP combine had won six seats, AAP and Congress had bagged four and three seats, respectively. Since the counting of votes began 8 am, Congress continuously maintained lead in the eight constituencies it finally won Amritsar, Faridkot, Anandpur Sahib, Jalandhar, Khadoor Sahib, Ludhiana, Fatehgarh Sahib and Patiala. Punjab Chief Minister and Congress leader Amarinder Singh’s wife and two-time MP Preneet Kaur defeated SAD candidate Surjit Singh Rakhra by 1.62 lakh votes in Patiala. The party’s Manish Tewari won from Anandpur Sahib by trouncing veteran Akali leader Prem Singh Chandumajra by more than 46,000 votes. Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and his wife and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal were the only SAD candidates who won their respective Ferozepur and Bathinda seats, both considered the party’s stronghold. Former deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal fought against turncoat and Congress candidate Sher Singh Ghubaya and defeated him with a margin of over 1.98 lakh votes. Harsimrat Kaur was re-elected from Bathinda for the third time, defeating Congress candidate Amrinder Singh Raja Warring with a margin of 21,772 votes. A major highlight of the poll outcome was BJP candidate Sunny Deol’s win. He wrested Gurdaspur seat from Congress heavyweight Sunil Jakhar by over 82,000 votes. Ravneet Singh Bittu, a two-time MP and grandson of former chief minister Beant Singh, retained his Ludhiana seat by defeating Lok Insaaf Party nominee Simarjeet Singh Bains by over 76,000 votes. Winning the majority of constituencies in Punjab, despite a “Modi wave”, would strengthen the stature of CM Amarinder Singh who almost singlehandedly rode his party to victory. The AAP, in spite of party chief Arvind Kejriwal’s extensive campaigning in Punjab, was set to win only Sangrur constituency, from where party’s state unit head Bhagwant Mann is contesting, against his rival Kewal Singh Dhillon of the Congress. The poll prospects for AAP were not bright from the beginning because of internal bickering and desertions and Bhagwant Mann was the best bet for the party in these polls. The voteshare of Congress grew to 40.13 per cent while Akali Dal’s was 27.45. AAP’s voteshare nosedived to 7.38 per cent while BJP and BSP’s was 9.63 and 3.49 per cent, respectively, as per the EC data.
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