New Delhi: The AAP retained the Rajinder Nagar assembly constituency in Delhi as its candidate Durgesh Pathak on Sunday registered a resounding victory in a bypoll, defeating his BJP rival Rajesh Bhatia by a margin of over 11,000 votes.
While Bhatia managed to get 28,851 votes, Congress’ contender Prem Lata could get only 2,014 votes in the bypoll that had taken place on June 23.
Aam Aadmi Party national convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal congratulated Pathak on the victory, and said it was a “defeat of dirty politics”, and thanked the people for appreciating the work done by his government in the national capital.
“Heartfelt thanks to the people of Rajinder Nagar. I am grateful for this immense affection and love of the people of Delhi. This inspires us to work harder and serve,” Kejriwal tweeted in Hindi.
The bypoll saw a low turnout of 43.75 per cent. Fourteen candidates had thrown their hats in the ring, and the contest had largely been seen as a battle between a confident AAP and a spirited BJP.
According to official data, Pathak polled 40,319 votes, while his nearest rival Bhatia got 28,851 votes. The victory margin was 11,468 votes.
“All rounds of counting have been completed. AAP candidate Durgesh Pathak has defeated his immediate rival Rajesh Bhatia (of BJP) by a margin of over 11,000 votes,” Delhi Chief Electoral Officer Ranbir Singh said.
Counting of votes had begun at 8 am amid tight security arrangements and as per the plan, 16 rounds were scheduled to be held.
At the start of counting of votes, Pathak had a slender lead of 1,500 votes over Bhatia which reduced to around 1,000 votes in the end of fifth round of counting. After the sixth round, Pathak galloped ahead with a margin of 3,000 votes which rose to an unassailable lead of over 10,000 votes by ninth round and eventually he emerged victorious with a margin of 11,000 votes.
Pathak took to Twitter to express his gratitude to voters: “Love you Rajinder Nagar.” He also credited his rise to the “leadership of Arvind Kejriwal”.
An extra round of counting was held as close button of one EVM was found “not pressed”, so steps were taken as per the standard operating procedures laid down by the election authorities, a senior poll official said.
Every electronic voting Machine (EVM) has a “close button” which is to be pressed after the polling exercise is over, the official said.
“During the process of counting, in one EVM, it was found that the close button was not pressed, so it was set aside and, all the 16 scheduled rounds were first held. And, as per the laid own standard operating procedures, the data got from the EVM, was compared with the data recorded in Form 17C, which has the account of votes and other details. And, as the two matched, votes lodged in this EVM was counted in a separate round,” the official said.
Hence, a total of 17 rounds were held, he said, adding, in case there would have been a mismatch in data, there is another SOP for that.
Of the total 72,283 votes in the final counting tally, 72,060 were polled through EVMs while 223 were postal votes, according to data shared by the poll officials.
In the NOTA category, 546 votes were polled.
Potable water supply, sewer lines, broken roads and the new liquor policy were among the key election issues for the electorate in the Rajinder Nagar constituency.
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia also congratulated Pathak and tweeted in Hindi, “Many many congratulations to my dear brother @ipathak25 (Durgesh Pathak) on being elected MLA from Rajendra Nagar Vidhan Sabha. Congratulations to all the workers of AAP for the victory.”
“In the heart of the people of Delhi, @ArvindKejriwal ji lives, he added.
The bypoll was necessitated in the wake of AAP leader Raghav Chadha leaving the seat after being elected to the Rajya Sabha recently. Chadha was the MLA from the Rajinder Nagar assembly seat.
This was also the first electoral exercise in Delhi after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Twenty-four Covid-positive voters turned out to exercise their franchise in the bypoll, officials had said.
A total of 1,64,698 voters were eligible to exercise their franchise in the bye-election — 92,221 male, 72,473 female and four belonged to the third gender.
Also, 1,899 voters in this assembly seat are in the 18-19 age group, according to the data shared by the office of the Delhi CEO.
The 2022 bypoll turnout was significantly less than the figures recorded in the 2020 polls, when the voter turnout in Rajinder Nagar was 58.27 percent — 58.09 percent male voters and 58.5 percent female voters.
According to officials, 43.67 percent of the male electorate and 43.86 percent of female voters had turned up for the June 23 bypoll. The percentage of third gender voters stood at 50 percent.
The Rajinder Nagar bypoll turnout was even lower than the figures recorded in the Rajouri Garden bypoll (46.5 percent) and Bawana bypoll (44.8 percent), both held in 2017. In 2015 polls, the two Delhi assembly seats had registered a turnout of 72 percent and 61.83 percent, respectively.