Chandigarh: The AAP on Saturday breached the Congress stronghold in Punjab as its candidate Sushil Rinku defeated his nearest-rival and the grand old party's nominee Karamjit Kaur Chaudhary in the Jalandhar Lok Sabha bypoll by a margin of 58,691 votes.
Losing its citadel has come as a big setback for the Congress which was hoping to retain the seat.
The win gives the ruling AAP in Punjab and Delhi its only member in the Lok Sabha.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has not had a member in the lower house since its defeat in Sangrur bypoll last year. The Sangrur parliamentary seat fell vacant after Bhagwant Mann resigned as MP on being elected to the Punjab Assembly. The AAP currently has 10 members in the Rajya Sabha.
Celebrations broke out following Rinku's victory with AAP leaders and supporters dancing to the tunes of 'dhols' and bursting firecrackers and distributing sweets.
Rinku, who joined the AAP after quitting the Congress before the bypoll, polled 3,02,279 votes while Chaudhary secured 2,43,588 votes, as per the Election Commission data.
The Congress had never lost the Jalandhar parliamentary seat since 1999.
Rinku, 47, thanked voters for the victory.
"I thank voters of Jalandhar for giving a huge mandate to AAP," he said.
"Not for 11 months, we will go ahead with a vision for the next five years," Rinku said in Jalandhar.
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 spot.
Sukhi polled 1,58,445 while Atwal, who failed to save his security deposit, got 1,34,800 votes.
Gurjant Singh, the candidate of the Simranjit Singh Mann-led Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), which won the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat last year, secured just 20,366 votes.
In the bypoll, the AAP got a vote share of 34.05 per cent, Congress 27.44 per cent, SAD 17.85 per cent and the BJP 15.19 per cent.
Counting of votes for the seat, the polling for which was held on May 10, began at 8 am amid tight security arrangements.
AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal hailed the victory as "historic" and said it is people's recognition of the good work done by Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and his government in Punjab.
"It's an unprecedented victory because of the Mann government's good work," he told a press conference at the party headquarters in Delhi.
Kejriwal said his party, despite an AAP wave during the 2022 assembly polls in Punjab, could win four out of the nine assembly segments in Jalandhar and the rest were won by the Congress.
"It was considered as Congress party's stronghold as we could win only four assembly seats out of nine assembly segments (in Jalandhar parliamentary seat) during (AAP's) wave (last year)," he said.
"Today, we won seven on nine assembly segments," he added.
The much-needed victory has also come as a short in the arm for the Aam Aadmi Party as the bypoll was being seen as a litmus test for the Arvind-Kejriwal led outfit which had faced a drubbing in the Sangrur Lok Sabha bypoll last year, just three months after it stormed to power in Punjab in March 2022.
The seat had fallen vacant following the death of Karamjit Kaur Chaudhary's husband and Congress MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary in January.
Mann, who was with Kejriwal at the press conference, said the bypoll result is the "positive stamp" of the people on his government's work.
There were a total of 16.21 lakh eligible voters, of which 8.87 lakh people exercised their franchise. As many as 6,661 voters opted for None of the Above (NOTA) option.
The AAP candidate consistently maintained a lead over his rivals since the start of the counting at 8 am.
Nineteen candidates contested the bypoll, which recorded a voter turnout of 54.70 per cent.
The turnout was well below the 63.04 per cent recorded in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
Punjab Finance Minister Harpal Singh Cheema described the victory as "historic" .
He said it showed the people of Jalandhar have rejected the "false propaganda" of the opposition.
Cheema, who was the AAP's election in-charge for the bypoll, said it was the party's first victory after it was recognised as a national party last month.
"People voted on the basis of Mohalla Clinics, Schools of Eminence, 300 units of free electricity and corruption-free governance provided by the AAP government," Cheema said.
Punjab Congress chief Amrinder Singh Raja Warring conceded defeat.
"We humbly accept people's mandate! I thank party workers, volunteers, supporters and the entire @INCPunjab leadership, for the hard work and efforts put in by them for the #JalandharByElection. I congratulate Sushil Rinku and AAP party for the victory," he tweeted.
SAD chief Sukhbir Badal said his party accepts the mandate with humility.
"We thank the voters of #Jalandhar and accept the mandate with humility in the true democratic traditions of our party. We congratulate the winner Sushil Kumar Rinku & @AamAadmiParty and hope that they will live up to the voters' expectations," Badal said.
Punjab BJP chief Ashwani Sharma also said his party accepts the mandate of the people.
"We accept whatever mandate is given by the people in Jalandhar Lok Sabha bypoll. Congratulations to the AAP candidate Sushil Rinku," he tweeted.