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Navjot Singh Sidhu wins Amritsar by-election

Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu yesterday won the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat by-election, defeating his Congress rival Surinder Singla by over 77,600 votes.

The official announcement of the crucial parliamentary seat result was withheld as two electronic voting machines had malfunctioned. The final result, after counting of votes from the two machines, would be made available later.

Sidhu’s victory over Singla, Punjab’s outgoing finance minister, was a forgone conclusion. Sidhu led in the counting right from the beginning and his lead kept growing.

However, his victory margin was much less than what he registered in the May 2004 Lok Sabha election when he won the seat for the first time.

He had then defeated seven-time MP Raghunandan Lal Bhatia by over 109,500 votes.
Bhatia is now the Kerala governor.

Sidhu had resigned from the seat in December following his conviction by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in a road rage case that led to the death of a man 18 years ago in Patiala town. His three-year prison sentence was last month stayed by the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the Shiromani Akali Dal which recorded its narrowest victory in elections it ever fought in Punjab will form the next government with its ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Akali Dal, led by Parkash Singh Badal, yesterday won 48 out of the 116 assembly seats that went to the polls February 13. The party had contested 93 assembly seats.

When the Akalis came to power on two previous occasions in 1997 and 1985, they had individually won 75 and 73 seats respectively.

in the 117-member assembly (one seat will go to polls March 11), the combined strength of the majority party has to secure 59 seats.

The Akalis could do it this time only with the help of alliance partner BJP that won 19 seats. The combined tally of the alliance is 67.

The BJP contested 23 assembly seats, winning 19 - almost 85% of the had won 18 seats in the 1997 assembly poll and the alliance had 93 seats in the state assembly.

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