Candidates dithering to contest on the party symbol, an embattled state chief, warring factions and government “muscle”. The opposition Congress could barely field candidates on 55% of the 2,044 wards in 122 municipal councils and nagar panchayats that went to the polls on Wednesday. The party, which had failed to put up candidates in 43 councils, nonetheless, managed a face-saver by mustering a majority in three municipal councils and a lead or a par with the SAD-BJP tally in three others.
It was mauled in Majha -- the turf of its two warring heavyweights. While Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa hails from Gurdaspur district, his bete noire Captain Amarinder Singh, deputy leader of the party in Lok Sabha, is now an MP from Amritsar. A hotbed for anti-Bajwa sentiments, neither the loyalists of Amarinder nor Bajwa could save the day for the Congress in Majha. The party had pitched the highest number of candidates , 115, from Gurdaspur, 58 from Amritsar and 38 from Tarn Taran.
It could win just one ward in the three municipal councils of Tarn Taran, which saw an impassioned war between the ruling allies. At Qadian, the constituency of Bajwa’s wife Charanjit Kaur, the party won just two of the 12 it contested. It failed to open its account in Batala, following the revolt of MLA Ashwani Sekhri against Bajwa and from Fatehgarh Churian from where Tripat Rajinder Bajwa, a Amarinder loyalist is an MLA and the party had contested 10 out of 13 wards on its symbol.
At Dera Baba Nanak, the assembly segment of firebrand Bajwa detractor Sukhjinder Randhawa, the party had contested all 11 wards but managed to secure a win in just three. At Sujanpur MC of Pathankot, it had contested all 15 wards and won just three.
Drawing a blank
Though the Congress was able to clinch three municipal councils in Malwa and Doaba -- Nawanshahar, Patran and Doraha -- by winning a majority of wards, it drew a blank in several other councils.
The party found itself battered in the backyard of the erstwhile Patiala royals, Patiala, where Amarinder’s wife Preneet Kaur was holding fort. The party failed to open its account at Samana where their son, Raninder Singh, had contested the 2012 state polls. It also fared poorly in Rajpura winning just four out of the 29 wards. Sanaur of senior MLA Lal Singh had no party candidate and drew a blank. At Lehragaga segment of MLA Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, the party won five out of the 14 seats it contested on the party symbol. The party came a cropper even in adjoining Mohali district though it had contested a majority of wards in Dera Bassi, Zirakpur, Lalru, Nayagaon and Banur segments on the party symbol.
Near-rout in Bathinda
The Congress also faced a near-rout in Bathinda district where it won just eight out of 226 wards and in Barnala where it contested just 19 wards and won three. With many party leaders throwing their weight behind Independents, the Congress won just one seat in the three MCs in Faridkot district, where a whopping 32 Independents have won the elections.
While its heavyweights fumbled, Congress young Turks such as Gurkirat Kotli and Youth Congress president Amrinder Singh Raja Warring managed to match the tally of the ruling alliance at Khanna and Gidderbaha, respectively. It also fared well at Jagraon in Ludhiana district.
At Abohar, the segment of Congress legislative party leader Sunil Jakhar, the party posted a double-digit win but not enough to beat the SAD-BJP in the final number-crunching. firstname.lastname@example.org