CHANDIGARH: INLD leader Abhay Singh Chautala won Ellenabad bypoll, retaining the assembly seat in his traditional stronghold, after defeating his nearest rival, Gobind Kanda of the BJP, with a margin of 6,739 votes on Tuesday.
In the bypoll held for the predominantly rural seat which falls in Haryana's Sirsa district, Kanda, a candidate put up by the BJP-JJP ruling combine, gave a close fight to Chautala.
Chautala, who is the son of INLD president and former chief minister O P Chautala, had resigned in January protesting the Centre's farm laws which necessitated the October 30 bypoll.
The results, however, came as a disappointment for the main opposition Congress as its candidate Pawan Beniwal trailed and finished a distant third.
Over 81 per cent of 1.86 lakh voters had cast their vote in the by-election.
According to the result declared by the Election Commission, Indian National Lok Dal's Abhay Chautala (58) defeated BJP's Gobind Kanda with a margin of 6,739 votes.
This was Chautala's fourth win from the family's traditional stronghold seat and fifth electoral win in an assembly poll.
While Chautala polled a total of 65,992 votes, Kanda secured 59,253 votes and Beniwal got 20,904 votes.
However, the victory margin of Chautala was down from the 2019 assembly polls when he won by nearly 12,000 votes from Ellenabad.
After the results were declared, Chautala described his win as a victory of farmers.
However, the BJP said his low victory margin showed that people negated the issue over which Chautala had resigned from the assembly.
The win was crucial for INLD as Chautala was the lone party MLA in the 90-member Haryana Assembly.
A defeat would have dealt a blow to the party which has suffered a series of electoral setbacks in recent years.
After his win, Chautala is once again the lone INLD member in the assembly.
Haryana Home Minister and senior BJP leader Anil Vij said that technically Chautala has won "but on moral grounds, he has lost".
"The issue on which he resigned from the assembly has been completely negated by the people of Ellenabad.
If the issue was so strong, then his victory margin would have increased.
The fact that his margin this time came down proved that people outrightly rejected the issue for which he resigned," Vij said.
The Congress has also been shown a mirror by the people of Ellenabad, he said.
Chautala, however, alleged that the government misused official machinery and the powers that be lured the voters with money.
"Despite this, the government (ruling BJP-JJP) lost the poll. The chief minister should resign on moral grounds," Chautala told reporters in Sirsa after his win.
"This is not my victory. It is a win of farmers and people of Ellenabad," he added.
As many as twelve independents were in the fray and as many as 480 voters opted for the NOTA option.
Chautala secured 43.49 per cent of the over 1.51 lakh votes polled, while the BJP candidate got 39.05 per cent of the votes and the Congress candidate got 13.78 per cent of the votes.
In the 2019 elections, Beniwal had finished second from the Ellenabad seat that was won by Chautala.
While there were 19 candidates in the fray, most of them Independents, the main contest eventually turned out to be between Chautala and Kanda.
Asked why his victory margin shrunk this time, Chautala claimed, "My margin was going to be very big. I would have won by over 50,000 votes had the BJP-JJP not indulged in horse-trading and had the Congress not colluded with them."
He also said that this was the second defeat suffered by the BJP in a bypoll in the state within a year.
A year ago, the Congress had retained the Baroda seat in a by-election.
Talking to reporters, Haryana BJP chief O P Dhankar said that despite challenges, his party had fared well and was actually the only outfit which had gained.
"People's support for our party is increasing," said Dhankar.
He said the Congress has been decimated in the bypoll and its candidate lost security deposit.
Chautala had maintained a consistent lead during the first seven rounds of counting but the margin dropped from 8,180 votes to 2,985 in the subsequent two rounds.
However, Chautala again increased his lead and won.
This was his third win in a by-election.
Gobind Kanda, the brother of Haryana Lokhit Party chief and MLA Gopal Kanda, joined the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) last month.
Gopal Kanda, the MLA from Sirsa, has extended support to the BJP-JJP government in Haryana.
Beniwal, who had unsuccessfully contested the previous Assembly polls against Chautala, recently switched over from the BJP to the Congress.
Chautala had won the Rori assembly bypoll in Sirsa district in 2000.
Chautala won the 2010 bypoll from Ellenabad, when his father vacated the seat to retain the Uchana seat in Jind district, the other constituency from which he had contested the election in 2009 and won.
Chautala retained the Ellenabad seat in 2014 as well.
He again won from Ellenabad in the 2019 assembly polls, when he was the lone INLD MLA to enter the House.