Chandigarh MC polls: Litmus test for parties

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Chandigarh MC polls: Litmus test for parties

Wednesday, 08 December 2021 | MANOJ KUMAR | Chandigarh

Ahead of the crucial Punjab Assembly elections which are going to the polls early next year, the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation elections is being seen as a litmus test for all the three major political parties-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on whether they would be able to hold on to their ground in the wake of scrapping of three farm laws. Apart from Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) alliance, ruling Congress, AAP and BJP are the main contenders in the 2022 Punjab Assembly election.

The ruling BJP in Chandigarh MC, opposition Congress and debutant AAP have fielded its candidates in all 35 seats of councilors in the MC poll. A total of 214 candidates are left in the fray. There is a triangular contest among BJP, Congress and AAP on December 24 for the first time. The election campaign in the city is at its peak after the parties completed their ticket allotment and nominations for the Chandigarh municipal corporation elections. Around 12 rebel candidates from AAP, Congress and BJP have so far indicated to put up a joint front against the three parties. They are in talks to formulate a common manifesto in addition to supporting each other on the ground. The parties fear that even in their individual capacities, the rebel candidates can hurt the victory chances of their official candidates. Sources said that BJP president Arun Sood and other senior leaders of BJP are holding meetings with other BJP rebels to withdraw their candidature.

Meanwhile, a senior AAP leader conceded that the party is also facing a major rebel candidate challenge. “We are in constant talks with them. In some wards, a difference of 100-200 votes will decide the winner. A rebel candidate will definitely hurt in such a scenario,” he added.

Apart from issues related to farmers, sanitation, price rise, hike in petrol price, increased water rates and door-to-door waste collection are among the poll issues the Opposition is likely to rake up, while the ruling party is likely to contest the elections on development carried out by it in the city.

Congress candidate from ward no 2 Harmohinder Singh lucky who kickstarted his door to door campaign from Sector 7, said that the large numbers of people of the city have supported the farmers of their agitation against three farm laws. The BJP government has rolled back farm laws now but city people are still anguished by the way BJP handled this issue. “We are ready for the elections and are confident of winning the MC for the second consecutive time. With the kind of development that our party has done in the last five years, we are confident of bagging the majority of the seats,” a senior BJP leader said.

The farmer agitation had got a lot of support in the joint Capital of Punjab and Haryana in the last one year. The repeal of the farm laws has given a breather to BJP leaders who may hope to regain their lost support among people supporting farmers’ agitation. While the Opposition parties, led by the Congress and AAP, termed this as victory for farmers and defeat for “arrogant” government, the BJP leaders called the decision a step towards the welfare of the farmers. The surprise announcement is sure to impact the political dynamics in the poll-bound Punjab where the assembly election is slated for early next year. The year-old agitation comes as a major breather for the saffron party, which was facing farmers’ ire on the ground in Punjab. The saffron party leader feels that now its leaders in Punjab will not face violent protest and attack while participating in political activities. The party also feels that the decision to repeal the laws will also bring back people, who physically or emotionally participated in farmer agitation, to the BJP.

Apart from Punjab and Haryana, people of Purvanchal, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh form a large chunk of voters in sectors and colonies and they will play a pivotal role in deciding the fate of all the 35 seats in the MC polls. As election campaigning picks up steam for the high-stakes Chandigarh municipal corporation elections, the city is set to host a number of senior politicians, including union ministers, chief ministers, popular actors and singers.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath, Punjab CM Charanjeet Singh Channi, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, Congress leader Kanhaiya Kumar and Senior AAP leader Bhagwant Mann are among the star campaigners set to descend upon the city over the next two weeks to woo voters ahead of polls. Besides, campaigners belonging to neighboring states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are also coming here as there are a sizable number of people from these states in Chandigarh.

There are a total of 6,30,311 voters. Of them, 3,30,713 are male and 2,99,581 female. There are 17 third gender voters. In view of the increase in the number of wards from 26 to 35, the number of polling booths has also been raised from 474 to 694. The counting of votes will take place on December 27 and the result will be out the same day. At present, the BJP has 20 councilors, the Congress five and the SAD one. AAP did not contest the 2016 MC poll, though it did support some Independent candidates.

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