The municipal corporation elections here have become a Congress versus Congress show, with party leaders deciding to contest against each other in almost all wards.
While some of these leaders are close to union minister Kumari Selja, others have support of Panchkula member of legislative assembly (MLA) DK Bansal.
As the party decided against releasing any list and contesting the elections on its symbol, many grassroots leaders are trying their luck as independent candidates.
Consequently, some wards have even up to five Congress leaders ready to lock horns. It is likely to result in vote division and may help the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who are fighting on party symbol.
Though Congress insiders say the party high command had decided against releasing a list and fighting on symbol to avoid anti-incumbency as the party is in power in the state, they also say top leaders do not want to earn wrath of grassroots workers by choosing one candidate from each ward.
In Ward Number 13, which comprises Sector 19, Industrial Area Phase 1 and Abheypur village, there are five Congress leaders contesting against each other. Similarly, in Ward Number 8, which comprises Mahadevpur, Saketri and Bhainsa Tibba villages, MDC Sectors 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, and Ward Number 11, which comprises Budhanpur, Indira Colony and Rajiv Colony, four Congress leaders each are battling against each other.
Will polls be a litmus test of MLA Bansal
Local MLA DK Bansal had held a press conference on May 17, and released a list of 11 candidates, saying all these people believed in policies of the Congress. But if these candidates lost elections, it could be a major setback for him.
However, when contacted, Bansal said, "I was not the organiser of the press conference, and was only called for it. Their defeat should not be interpreted as my defeat or loss of my hold in the constituency."
On campaigning in MC polls, he said he would go to a place where there was no battle between Congress candidates among themselves.
He added, "I myself had asked some of them to withdraw, but situation is that from every ward there are two, three or even four Congress candidates."
"We have got done so much work in Panchkula. But the other group just talk rubbish," he said.
Congress man whom neither Selja likes nor Bansal
Ravinder Rawal, who is a former municipal council president, neither has Selja's backing nor favoured by Bansal. However, he is close to Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. He is contesting from Ward Number 12, which comprises Sector 15 and Industrial Area Phase 2, including power colony. Surprisingly, no other Congress leader is standing against him from this ward.
"A lot of candidates have suddenly decided to contest the elections and are claiming to be from Congress. We are going to get maximum seats and mayor will be from the Congress," said Rawal. His brother, Naresh Rawal, is also contesting elections from Ward Number 14 (Sectors 12, 12-A, 14 and Railly and Railla villages) against Selja supporter Lily Bawa.
Selja group reactions
"MLA Bansal should not have introduced his candidates. Some are just claiming to be Congress workers, while they are not," said Tarsem Garg, a known Selja supporter against whom Bansal is supporting Chaitnya Vashisht.
"Had the party fought on symbol, candidates would have felt more confident. We are requesting weak candidates to sit down. Regarding Bansal's list, I had complained to party high command," said Mukesh Malhotra, district Congress president and Selja supporter.
Cong vs Cong
Ward Number 7 (Gumthala, Chowki, Kharag Mangoli and Bir Ghagghar villages)
Rajinder Lohari, Sumit Kumar and Mam Raj
Ward Number 8 (Mahadevpur, Saketri and Bhainsa Tibba villages, MDC Sectors 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, including Mata Mansa Devi Colony, Gandhi Colony)
Hemant Kinger, Pritam Singh Lubana, BB Bansal and Subhash Sachdeva
Ward Number 9 (Sectors 1, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 18)
Tarsem Garg and Chaitnya Vashisht
Ward Number 10 (Sectors 9, 16 and 17)
Ranjeeta Mehta and Bhawna Gupta
Ward Number 11 (Budhanpur, Rajiv Colony and Indira Colony)
Kanta Devi, Shiksha Puhal, Usha Rani and Mohini
Ward Number 13 (Sector 19, Industrial Area Phase 1 and Abheypur village)
Surinder Laddi, Surinder Singh Saini, Sajid Khan, Jaswant Singh and Jagdish Singh
Ward Number 14 (Sectors 12, 12-A, 14, and Railly and Railla villages)
Naresh Rawal and Lily Bawa
Ward Number 15 (Sectors 10 and 11)
Omwati Punia, Kiran Kakkar
Ward Number 16 (Sectors 2, 4, and Majri and Haripur villages)
Sakshi Bhandari, Mamta Rani and Harmesh Rani
Ward Number 17 (Sectors 3, 21, and Devinagar and Maheshpur villages)
Dalbir Kaur, Rita Aggarwal
Ward Number 18 (Sector 20, and Kundi and Fatehpur villages)
Ashish Garg, Major Singh, Upinder Walia, Rajnish Sharma and Pawan Jain
Ward Number 19 (Sectors 23 to 28, and Nadda, Bana, Madanpur and Jaisingh Pur villages)
Anil Aggarwal, Tarun Bhandari, Pratap Malik
Ward Number 20 (Ramgarh, Mankyan, Bhanu, Jaswantgarh, Billa, Behar, Kot, Dabkori, Toka, Khangesra, Alipur, Naggal, Jaloli, Khatoli, Sukhdarshanpur and Bir Babupur villages)
Salim Khan, Raj Kumar Saini