After its historic win in the assembly elections, the SAD-BJP alliance swept the municipal corporation polls in Amritsar, Jalandhar Ludhiana and Patiala. Despite initial hiccups, the two parties have stuck to the ‘two mayors each’ formula, as per ‘coalition dharma’. And, there is frantic jockeying among the aspirants in the two parties for the mayoral posts. HT looks at the frontrunners:
SAD frontrunners keep race wide open
The tenure of the previous Ludhiana municipal corporation house ended last week, but the new councillors are yet to take over.
The reason: the SAD-BJP combine, which has a comfortable majority, has not decided on its mayoral candidate. The SAD had projected former chief parliamentary secretary Harish Raj Dhanda as its candidate, but he lost. A number of SAD councillors are now eyeing the post.
While former minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon, appointed as observer by the party, has begun the consultation process, the race is wide open. The frontrunners include former mayor Hakam Singh Giaspura, Pal Singh Grewal, Kamaljit Singh Karwal and Paramjit Kaur Shivalik.
While Giaspura (ward no. 72) is a four-time councillor and considered close to chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, Grewal (ward no. 10), who has got elected for the second time, has also thrown his hat in the ring.
Karwal (ward no. 45) is a close confidant of Independent MLAs Balwinder Bains and Simarjit Bains. Shivalik (ward no. 58), wife of two-time MLA Darshan Singh Shivalik, is seeking the mayor’s chair as her husband was not accommodated in the cabinet. There is also talk that the party may finally opt for a sitting legislator.
Total strength: 75
Budget: Rs 741.25 crore
BJP contenders banking on ‘right links’
As the term of the previous house of the municipal corporation ended on Sunday, lobbying has intensified in the BJP for the post of mayor.
Two-time BJP councillors Ravi Mahendru (ward no. 38) and Sunil Jyoti (ward no. 5) have emerged as the top contenders for the post. Their political patrons in not only the BJP but also the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), which often has the final say in such matters, are trying extra hard to push their candidature.
While Mahendru is considered close to former local bodies minister and local MLA Manoranjan Kalia and is counting on his support, Jyoti is a confidant of chief parliamentary secretary KD Bhandari. In 2007 also, Mahendru was in the race for the post, but it went to Rakesh Rathour, who had the backing of Amritsar MP Navjot Singh Sidhu and Himachal Pradesh chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal. This time, Rathour didn’t contest the civic body elections.
While the SAD-BJP combine had barely managed to scrape through in the 60-member house, the party realises the significance of taking everyone along. The divisional commissioner will announce the date for the election of the new mayor on September 20.
Total strength: 60
Budget: Rs 610 crore
Kohli runs out of luck, change of guard likely
The ruling SAD swept the poll, but the selection of mayor is proving to be a challenging task in state Congress chief and former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh’s home turf.
Ajit Pal Singh Kohli (ward no. 26), sitting mayor and third generation leader of the Kohli family, is a top contender this time too. His “below-average” performance on development of the city and the poor showing of the SAD in the city in the assembly and parliamentary polls are not going in his favour, though.
The party leadership also appears to be upset over the charges of corruption levelled against him by councillors of the coalition on earlier occasions. While a change of guard seems very likely, Youth Akali Dal state general secretary and Hindu leader Harpal Juneja (ward no. 31) and three-time councillor Jaspal Pardhan (ward no. 39) are being seen as top contenders.
“With Patiala having 60% Hindu population, the party may try Juneja, who is close to YAD chief Bikram Singh Majithia and whose family has a strong social background,” said an SAD insider. Pardhan is harping on his seniority and his strong association with rural development minister Surjit Singh Rakhra.
“Since both Kohli and Pardhan represent urban Sikh voters, if the party replaces Kohli without changing the internal political equations in the city, Pardhan could get a chance,” sources said.
Urban Sikh leader Amaninder Bajaj (ward no. 45) and Harinderpal Tohra (ward no. 43), grandson of Akali veteran late Gurcharan Singh Tohra, are also in the race.
Total Strength: 50
Budget: Rs 102 crore
BJP veteran pitted against young blood
With the commissioner of the Amritsar municipal corporation preparing for the formation of the new house on September 15, the race for the mayor’s post among BJP aspirants has gathered pace.
The top contenders include a veteran councillor and two young guns banking on their close association with powerful party leaders. While Bakshi Ram Arora (ward no. 50), a three-time councillor, is counting on his seniority, track record and long association with the party, Rajesh Honey (ward no. 27), who scored his second consecutive victory, has the backing of local MP Navjot Singh Sidhu. He is also the state chief of the BJP Yuva Morcha.
The third contender, Sukhminder Pintoo (ward no. 11), who made headlines by winning the municipal poll with the highest margin in Punjab, has the support of cabinet minister Anil Joshi.
With the SAD-BJP combine in a comfortable position in the house, all three are lobbying hard for the top post. “Their names have been discussed at length in party meetings at Chandigarh and New Delhi, but no final decision has been taken,” sources said.
Though Amritsar will get a mayor from the BJP, the SAD, which has more seats in its kitty, will be playing a crucial role in the civic body. The SAD wanted its own mayor first, but dropped the idea due to coalition dharma.
Total strength: 65
Budget: Rs 239 crore