It is a victory for Kuldeep Bishnoi in Hisar. But indirectly, the Bharatiya Janata Party has made roots into the fort of Bhajan Lal sympathisers.
With Team Anna's anti-Congress campaign impacting the Hisar Lok Sabha by-election, Haryana Janhit Congress chief Kuldeep Bishnoi, 42, on Monday won by a margin of 6,323 votes. His father Bhajan Lal, a former Congress chief minister, had rebelled and won the seat in 2009 by 6,983 votes.
Congress got a beating in the regular daily media briefing, as the party could not answer a volley of questions from journalists about the poll debacle. However, Congress spokesperson Renuka Choudhary managed to sail through tough questions.
"It is now Team Anna's turn to certify that Bishnoi is not corrupt. It would have been better if Team Anna's leading light Arvind Kejriwal, who also hails from Hisar, contested the election and showed a vote in favour of its anti-corruption campaign," Choudhary affirmed at the All India Congress Committee press briefing.
A tactical electoral alliance with the BJP in September and a sympathy wave from his father's death in June paid Bishnoi the dividends.
The BJP transferred its 45,000 plus votes in favour of Bishnoi to beat his nearest rival, Indian National Lok Dal's Ajay Singh Chautala, 50, son of another former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala.
Choudhary, however, asserted that the by-elections are won because of different local factors and can not be judged as indicator of results in the general elections.
She also asserted that it was not a vote against Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, affirming that, "Hooda still has batteries running in him."
The Congress had won nine of 10 Lok Sabha seats from Haryana in 2009, losing only Hisar to rebel Bhajan Lal and got re-elected in the Haryana assembly elections for the second term.
No wonder Congress strategist and Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said Hisar loss was a sad experience. "We shall have to analyse why we lost the by-polls and what are the reasons," he said.
Hazare sought the defeat for the Congress through a video appeal, while his team of Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi, a former top cop, and journalist-activist Manish Sosodia campaigned against the party.
Bishnoi's corrupt image, however, made Kejriwal assert that the Team Anna had nothing to do with his victory.
In over nine lakh votes polled in a big constituency of 13.32 lakhs, Bishnoi polled 355,941 votes as against Chautala's 349,618, while Congress candidate Jai Prakash, 58, a two-time MP from Hisar and a former Union minister, finished a poor third with 149,785 votes in the 40-cornered contest.
Jai Prakash had also finished third in 2009 with 204,539 votes.
Bishnoi was forthright in asserting after the results were out that Team Anna had no impact on his performance and the Congress latched on this remark to counter the claim that the result was 'a referendum on the Jan Lokpal Bill' it brought to beat the corruption.
Bishnoi affirmed that Hisar is a traditional seat of his family. "The victory is basically because of my father and family's track record. We have done a lot for Hisar," he said.
The BJP was quite elated to claim all three results -- the Hisar Lok Sabha by-election and the assembly by-elections of Darbhanga in Bihar and Khadakvasla in Maharashtra as a "defining vote against corruption and the Congress misgovernance."
Its spokesperson Syed Shahnawaz Hussain said alarm bells should ring for the Congress to stop corruption or face a similar rout in the next Lok Sabha elections.
"It is no ordinary by-election in Hisar. The Congress lost it despite it being in power both at the Centre and in Haryana. It is a slap on Hooda's face as it was the people's ruling on his misrule," he said.
Lok Sabha leader of the opposition Sushma Swaraj was instrumental in striking an electoral alliance with Bishnoi-led HJC, beating the Congress attempts to force its merger that failed because of Hooda's resistance.
She declared Bishnoi's victory as the first sign of a great future for the BJP-HJC alliance that contemplates the BJP get majority seats in the Lok Sabha elections from the state and HJC take majority seats in the assembly elections.
Bishnoi added, "The win today is a foundation stone for the formation of HJC-BJP government in the state in the future."
Out of the nine assembly segments in the constituency, Bishnoi led in five -- Adampur, Hansi, Barwala, Hisar and Nalwa. Chautala led in remaining four -- Uchana Kalan, Uklana, Narnaund and Bawani Khera.
Bishnoi was maintaining a lead of around 30,000 votes till the last few rounds of counting, when his victory margin started slumping and he could win by a narrow lead of 6,323 votes in the byelection held last Thursday.