The Shiromani Akali Dal romped home with a comfortable victory in the by-election for the Moga Assembly constituency in Punjab on Thursday, when its candidate Joginderpal Jain defeated his Congress rival, Vijay Saathi by 18,849 votes.

According to the results announced by the spokesperson from the Chief Electoral Officer, of the total 130300 votes counted through 14 rounds, Mr. Jain polled 69269 votes, Mr. Saathi got 50420, while Dr. Ravinder Singh Dhaliwal of the People's Party of Punjab returned a tally of 7401 votes. The other eight candidates did not cross the 1000 votes' mark.

The by-election was necessitated after Mr. Jain, who had won the seat on a Congress ticket in the February 2012 general elections to the Assembly, resigned and joined the Akali Dal. This is the third consecutive win for Mr. Jain. With this victory, the Akali Dal's tally in the 117 member Assembly has risen to 57, just one short of simple majority. It has two associate members, who had revolted in the Assembly polls and returned to the party fold after the results. The Akali Dal is in alliance with the BJP, which has 12 MLAs. However, the number of Congress legislators has reduced to 45.

Though the victory may not have any bearing on the legislative arithmetic, it is expected to have far reaching impact on the State politics, especially within the ruling party, where the issue of succession may warrant a final settlement. The result could spark more fissures within the Congress, where the demand for change in leadership has been raising its head quite often.

The camp of the president of the Akali Dal, Sukhbir Singh Badal, would flaunt his invincibility, especially after he led the party in the last Assembly polls when for the first time in the State's history, the ruling alliance retained power. Later, he led the alliance to a landslide victory in Dasuya by-election in July, which was followed by the Akali Dal historic victory in the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC).

Meanwhile, thanking the people of Moga for reposing trust in the ruling alliance through a largest ever victory margin for the Akali Dal, Mr. Sukhbir Singh Badal said that results should hand out a warning to all political parties that negative campaign was rejected by the people. He said that while the people of Moga had put a stamp of approval on the development based agenda of the Akali Dal-BJP, they had taught the Congress a lesson for unprecedented price rise, lack of governance, corruption and complete disconnect with the needs of the common person.

On the other hand, Captain Amarinder Singh, who heads the Punjab unit of the Congress said that while the result of a single by-election was no measure of the popularity of a government as the Akali Dal had manufactured and manipulated the result through misuse of money, muscle, police and official power. He said that the otherwise "soft spoken" Chief Minister had also threatened discrimination if Moga did not elect their candidate.