An estimated 88 per cent of the 1,44,181 voters exercised their franchise despite the chilly and foggy weather in the bye-election for the Ellenabad Assembly constituency on Wednesday.

According to Haryana Chief Electoral Officer Sunita Mishra,the poll passed off peacefully even though the Election Commission had declared the constituency as “hyper-sensitive.”

October Assembly polls had registered a 86 per cent voter-turnout.

The seat was won by former Haryana Chief Minister and Indian National Lok Dal chief Om Parkash Chautala who defeated Bharat Singh Beniwal of the Congress by a margin of over 16,000 votes. The bye poll was necessitated after Mr.Chautala, who had also won from the Uchana Kalan constituency, decided to vacate the Ellenabad seat.

Interestingly, the INLD, who is said to enjoy considerable clout in the Sirsa belt, fielded Mr.Chautala's 'younger son Abhey Singh while the Congress retained Mr.Beniwal.

Both the Congress and the INLD had made it an issue of prestige to win the seat not only for the numerical strength in the 90-member Assembly but also to retain “supremacy.”

Mr.Chautala and the INLD were seen to be far ahead of the Congress so far as campaigning was concerned. However, with Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda personally supervising the “campaign'” of the Congress, a “tough contest was witnessed on the Chautalas' home turf” and the verdict, whatever it is, would be “victory'” by a narrow margin for the winning candidate, political observers feel.

The high-profile campaigning saw “arguments galore” between Mr. Hooda and Mr. Chautala on the development issue. While the Congress alleged that the Devi Lal clan had “ignored the development of the backward area even though they had enjoyed power for several years,” Mr.Chautala and his sons focussed on the price rise, law and order situation and “failure of the Hooda regime to deliver the goods.”

Initially, voting was very slow in the morning thanks to the vagaries of the weather. It picked up during the day and at closing time (5 p.m.) large queues were still lined up outside the polling booths.

Interestingly, of the 15 candidates in the fray 11 were Independents as the major players like BSP,BJP and Haryana Janhit Congress did not field any candidates.