In a major upset in the Lok Sabha by-elections, the Aam Aadmi Party on Sunday lost the Sangrur parliamentary seat vacated by Bhagwant Singh Mann when he became Punjab chief minister to Shiromani Akali Dal-Amritsar president and 'Khalistan' proponent Simranjit Singh Mann.
Mann, 77, who returns to Parliament after two decades, defeated the AAP's Gurmail Singh by a margin of 5,822 votes.
Mann polled 2,53,154 votes, while Singh got 2,47,332, according to the Election Commission figures.
For the AAP, the humiliating defeat comes just three months after it registered a landslide victory in the 2022 assembly elections, winning 92 of the 117 assembly constituencies.
The recent murder of popular singer Sidhu Moosewala is being seen as one of the factors.
CM Bhagwant Mann himself has won from Sangrur parliamentary constituency twice -- in 2014 and 2019.
His recent win was from Dhuri, an assembly segment in the same Lok Sabha constituency.
Answering a TV reporter's question on his victory, Simranjit Mann recalled the death of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and others during Operation Blue Star at Amritsar's Golden Temple in 1984.
Mann had quit the Indian Police Service in protest over the Army operation to flush out militants from the shrine.
The Shiromani Akali Dal-Amritsar president had last won the same seat in 1999.
His earlier parliamentary victory was in 1989 from Tarn Taran, when he created a row insisting that he should be allowed entry into the House with a sword, saying this was a Sikh's right.
Congress candidate Dalvir Singh Goldy took the third spot after AAP in the results declared Sunday.
Bharatiya Janata Party's Kewal Dhillon and Shiromani Akali Dal's Kamaldeep Kaur Rajoana followed.
Goldy polled 79,668 votes, Dhillon 66,298 and Kaur 44,428, all three of them losing their security deposits.
Less than a percentage point in the vote share separated the winner and the AAP candidate.
The SAD-Amritsar cornered 35.61 per cent of the votes polled, the AAP 34.79, the Congress 11.21, the BJP 9.33 and the SAD 6.25.
Punjab's ruling party conceded defeat even before the results were officially declared.
"We respect the mandate of the people for the Sangrur seat. We also congratulate Simranjit Singh Mann," an AAP spokesperson told reporters.
The AAP cited the low turnout as the major reason of the defeat, though it said it is taking the bypoll result very seriously and will review its performance.
SAD-Amritsar leader's supporters took to the roads in Sangrur to celebrate the victory. Some distributed ladoos.
Many rode in cars and on two-wheelers, raising slogans.
Many Mann's supporters were seen doing the thigh-slap and raising their index finger to the sky, a gesture associated with singer Sidhu Moosewala.
The AAP defeat in Sangrur is being attributed partly to the outrage over the recent murder of popular Punjabi singer and Congress leader Sidhu Moosewala, and the alleged deterioration of law and order under the new state government.
Speaking with reporters, Mann dedicated his victory to the people of Sangrur, to the late actor-activist Deep Sidhu and singer Moosewala, 'who gave their blood for the Sikh community'.
He claimed his victory will have repercussions on Indian politics, and recalled how people had laughed at his failure to win elections over several years. He had also unsuccessfully contested the recent assembly polls.
"I am grateful to our voters of Sangrur for having elected me as your representative in Parliament. I will work hard to ameliorate the sufferings of our farmers, farm labourers, traders and everyone in my constituency," he said.
Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee chief Harjinder Singh Dhami congratulated Mann on his victory and expressed hope that he will raise Sikh issues in Parliament.
Counting of votes began at 8 am on Sunday amid tight security arrangements. Sixteen candidates contested the June 23 bypoll.
It witnessed a low turnout of 45.30 percent as against 72.44 per cent polling in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and 76.71 in 2014.
There were 15.69 lakh eligible voters this time.
Altogether, 7,10,919 votes were polled, including 2,471 cast for None of the Above (NOTA).
According to the data available for eight of nine assembly segments of the Sangrur parliamentary seat, AAP candidate Gurmail Singh led in four -- including Dhuri currently represented by CM Bhagwant Mann.
Singh, 38, is the party's Sangrur district in-charge while the Congress had placed its bets on former Dhuri MLA Goldy.
The BJP candidate, former Barnala MLA Kewal Dhillon, had joined the party earlier this month.
The SAD had nominated Kamaldeep Kaur, the sister of Balwant Singh Rajoana who was convicted for the murder of then Punjab chief minister Beant Singh.
Simranjit Singh Mann's main poll plank was securing the release of Sikh prisoners lodged in various jails even after the expiry of their terms.
Sangrur parliamentary constituency was considered a bastion of the AAP, which had won all nine assembly seats that fall under it in the 2022 state elections.
Bhagwant Mann had won the Sangrur seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls after defeating SAD candidate Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa with a margin of 2.11 lakh votes.
In 2019, he won there again by a margin of 1.10 lakh votes, defeating Congress candidate Kewal Dhillon.