It has been three years since the SAS Nagar municipal committee was dissolved and the town got a municipal corporation in January 2011; but residents have not been able to elect their representatives for the upgraded civic body.
So, even while politicians trade charges, residents are deprived of the benefit of approaching area councillors regarding provision of various civic amenities in the town. "For the residents, it translates into sheer harassment.
The authorities keep passing the buck. We need area councillors who can pursue our grievances," said Col VK Sood (retd), president, Resident Welfare Association (RWA), Darshan Vihar.
The law says elections have to be held within six months of the formation of a municipal corporation.
"The 73rd and 74th amendments gave constitutional status to urban and rural local self government institutions. Elections to these bodies are to be held as soon as possible, but within maximum six months of inception" pointed out BJP leader Satya Pal Jain, a senior advocate at the Punjab and Haryana high court.
Congressmen in the district see a "game plan" of the ruling SAD-BJP dispensation in the matter. "It is a clear case of political vendetta since both the local MLA and the MP are from the Congress. Owing to our humongous support base, the Punjab government is not interested in holding MC elections here.
Also, since SAS Nagar is seen as a 'goldmine' district, the government wants to have a free run through its handpicked officers by imposing arbitrary decisions which would not be possible in case the corporation is run by elected representatives," alleged Ravneet Singh Bittu, the Congress MP from Anandpur Sahib, under whose segment SAS Nagar falls.
However, rebutting Bittu's claim, Punjab local bodies minister Anil Joshi contended, "In Patiala and Ludhiana, the area MPs belong to the Congress, but the SAD-BJP combine won elections to these local bodies with clear majority. So Bittu's barbs hold no ground. Residents always want their nominee from the ruling dispensation since he can ensure speedy redress of grievances."
Joshi maintained that the MC elections could not be held till date due to litigation on the matter, assuring that things had been cleared now. He added, "I have inaugurated a toll-free number (1800-137-0007) specifically for residents of SAS Nagar, and their grievances are being taken care of. Residents also meet me in Chandigarh and get their complaints redressed on the spot."
SAS Nagar MC commissioner Uma Shankar Gupta gave more details: "In the initial notification, there was a proposal to add 23 new villages within the MC limits. This proposal got mired in litigation. In the new proposal that has been drafted, we have added only two villages, Sohana and Kumbhra, apart from the 80 developed sectors.
The final draft of the notification is there with the department of local bodies, and clearance is expected in a week. Thereafter, we will start the process of demarcation of wards, since a minimum of 50 are required. This takes another 2-3 months. Once formalities are complete, we can hold elections as per directions from the state government."