Baroda bypolls: Cong's Indu Raj Narwal defeats BJP's Yogeshwar Dutt by 10,566 votes

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Chandigarh, Nov 10 (PTI) The opposition Congress on Tuesday retained the Baroda assembly seat after its candidate Indu Raj Narwal defeated BJP nominee and Olympian wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt by a margin of 10,566 votes.

This is the second time that Dutt has lost from the constituency.

In the 2019 assembly polls, he had lost by about 4,800 votes to Congress candidate Krishan Hooda, whose demise in April necessitated the bypolls.

He had won the constituency thrice in 2009, 2014 and 2019.

According to officials, Narwal was polled 60,636 votes against Dutt’s 50,070. Indian National Lok Dal nominee Joginder Singh Malik polled 5,003 votes while Loktantra Suarkasha Party candidate Raj Kumar Saini got 5,601 votes.

As many as 468 voters opted for the NOTA (none of the above) option, according to the Election Commission data.

The Congress secured a vote share of 49.28 per cent, followed by the ruling BJP at 40.70 per cent and the INLD at 4.07 per cent, the data showed.

As counting of votes began at 8 am, Narwal took the lead over Dutt. The Congress candidate remained ahead of Dutt in 15 of 20 rounds of counting.

Dutt accepted the verdict and thanked people for their support. He also congratulated Narwal for the win. “I accept the verdict of the Baroda constituency,” he said in a tweet.

Senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda thanked voters for the “landslide victory” in the Baroda by-elections.

“This was not just a victory for Congress candidate Induraj Narwal but a victory for communal harmony and brotherhood between all communities of Baroda,” said Hooda in a statement here.

The former CM said the result of the elections has shown that the public has become “disenchanted” with the BJP-JJP government and had passed a “no confidence motion” against them.

“The wave of change that started from here will sweep through Haryana and reach Chandigarh,” he said.

Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar said he bows to each BJP worker for his hard work in Baroda.

Khattar in his tweet commended 'panna parmukhs', booth presidents and office-bearers of the party for conveying the development policies of the government to people in the challenging times of COVID-19.

Haryana Congress chief Kumari Selja said people of Baroda have given a “befitting reply” to “anti-farmer and anti-labour forces”.

“We have been saying from day one that it will be a one-sided contest in favour of the Congress and you are seeing it now,” said Selja.

Haryana BJP chief O P Dhankar said, “Traditionally, it (Baroda) has been a Congress seat and the Congress candidates have been winning from here.” However, the number of BJP votes has increased, he said, adding that he was saddened by Dutt's defeat.

Asked whether the defeat was due to the anger of the farmers over the central farm laws, Dhankar said, 'Had there been an impact, then our number of votes would have decreased.

Everybody knows it was the Congress party's lie. These laws are in favour of farmers.' The Baroda bypoll was a direct contest between the BJP and Congress. The poll outcome of the bypoll has come as a big setback for the BJP-JJP alliance government in the state which has been facing the ire of farmers over the three central farm laws.

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala and other senior leaders had aggressively canvassed for Dutt.

To counter opposition party's criticism of the farm laws, Khattar had even announced that he would quit politics if the minimum support price (MSP) system was dismantled while accusing the Congress of 'misleading' farmers over this issue.

The BJP was looking to wrest this seat from the Congress as the saffron party has never won from here.

The bypoll was also a battle of prestige for former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda as this Jat-dominated constituency lies adjacent to his own Garhi-Sampla Kiloi seat in Rohtak and is considered his stronghold.

The victory for the Congress nominee will help Hooda emerge as an undisputed leader in the state unit of the party.

Two-time chief minister Hooda along with his son Deepender Hooda had campaigned for Narwal and had launched a blistering attack on the Khattar-led dispensation over several issues, including the farm laws.

The INLD, for which the bypoll was equally important, remained at the fourth spot.

Baroda was a reserved seat till 2005 and a pocket borough of the INLD before the Congress won it for three consecutive terms starting in 2009.

The BJP had won 40 of 90 seats in the 2019 assembly polls and later formed the government with the JJP's support, which had won 10 seats.

The poll outcome will have no bearing on the numbers in the 90-member Haryana Assembly.

The BJP's tally will stay at 40 while the Congress Party’s number will remain unchanged at 31 as the seat was held by Hooda. The INLD has one seat. PTI CHS VSD RDK RDK