Shimla municipal corporation elections sprung up a surprise as Communist Party of India (Marxist) won the posts of mayor and deputy mayor, elections to which were direct. The Congress, which dominated the MC for 26 years, could manage to win only 10 wards as against 15 wards last time. BJP won 12 wards as against three by the leftist party.
Sanjay Chauhan of CPM became the mayor, beating BJP's SS Minhas by 7,868 votes. Tekinder Singh Panwar of CPM is the new Deputy Mayor who beat BJP rival Digvijay Singh by 4,748 votes.
Wrong selection of candidates, anti-incumbency factor, lack of strategy, division among rank and file and lacklustre campaign led to humiliating defeat of the Congress. Rival factions lobbied hard for their favorites for ticket. The party gave preference to personal choices rather than fielding a winning candidate with good public rapport.
The Congress wasted much of its time in deciding candidates for the posts of mayor and deputy mayor. While union minister for micro, small and medium enterprises Virbhadra Singh lobbied hard to get ticket for his loyalist and incumbent deputy mayor Harish Janartha, the faction hostile to him backed incumbent mayor Madhu Sood, who emerged as final choice.
Having affluent background, the party bigwigs ignored that Sood would have to do a lot of explaining to voters since she remained saddled on the mayor's post for five years. Since Sood enjoyed backing of PPC president Kaul Singh, the rival faction was not keen to support her.
The Congress rather blamed the BJP for the lack of support. What further made the party suffer was the wrong selection of candidates. Party bigwigs ignored the merit and instead preferred their personal choices for councillors, where as the BJP considered winability.
Results have also come as a warning to the ruling BJP that pumped in all its might claiming that it was sure to win the elections. Chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal was the star campaigner even as his rival and former CM Shanta Kumar kept aloof from the polls. A battery of five ministers campaigned 24X 7 in every ward.
The BJP, which is ruling the state for the past five years, could not groom candidates for the posts of mayor and deputy mayor though it had amended rules for direct elections. Indecisiveness of the party to declare candidates for the posts of mayor and deputy mayor led to confusion.
Party fielded leading surgeon Dr Satinder Singh Manhas at the last moment, while the organisation brooded over the choice. The party leaders could not reconcile with Manhas' candidature. Manhas secured 14,035 votes. His goodwill and rapport helped him to cling to second position.