The performance in the Jalandhar Lok Sabha bypoll has acted as a morale booster for the BJP in Punjab. (Representational image: News18)
The BJP made inroads in the reserved constituency, paving its way for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. It was an ally of the Akali Dal in Punjab, but after the alliance broke down, it is testing the political waters in the state.
Going it alone after more than 25 years, the BJP put up an impressive performance in the Jalandhar Lok Sabha bypoll despite finishing fourth. The saffron camp polled over 1.34 lakh votes in the reserved constituency, paving the way for it to work on gains ahead of next year’s Lok Sabha polls.
The BJP has always been the junior ally of the Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab, but it is testing the political waters in the state after the alliance broke. The party’s candidate Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal had pushed Shiromani Akali Dal’s candidate Dr Sukhwinder Sukhi to the third spot for most part of the vote counting, but fell just behind in the end.
Party leaders claimed it was a major achievement, attributing the performance to well-done homework and booth-level cadre interaction. Earlier, as a junior alliance partner with the Akali Dal, the BJP contested only three assembly seats in the Jalandhar Lok Sabha constituency and won three Lok Sabha seats, including Hoshiarpur, Gurdaspur and Amritsar, out of a total of 13 in the state. The SAD-BJP alliance came into existence in the 1996 Lok Sabha elections and lasted for almost two and a half decades. The Akali Dal walked out of the alliance in 2020 following a massive farmers’ agitation against the Centre’s three farm laws.
In the last year’s assembly elections, the BJP was able to garner just 6.6 per cent votes, while the deposits of 54 of the party’s 73 candidates were forfeited. But the performance in the bypolls seems to have boosted morale.
Party leaders said that more than numbers, the BJP’s aim during this election was to ensure that its cadre is active. “We did not want to be seen as a party that was non-existent. We went to the booth level and made our presence felt. The experience of this election will help us a lot in the Lok Sabha elections.”
Recently, the party has seen a significant number of leaders coming on board, especially from its former ally Akali Dal. Sources said the selection of the candidate also worked in its favour.
“Atwal comes from the Mazhabi Sikh community, which has a significant presence in the constituency. A major chunk of those votes went to the BJP,” said a senior party leader.