A day after a virtual sweep of the smaller civic bodies across Punjab, the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (SAD-BJP) combine barely managed to maintain the streak, gaining a thin majority in four of the six municipal corporations (MCs), results of which were declared on Thursday.
Voters gave a split verdict in Mohali (SAS Nagar), while in Phagwara, perceived to be the BJP citadel, the alliance reached the halfway mark, one short of a simple majority. Of the 298 wards in six MCs, the BJP bagged the highest number at 85, the SAD got 80 and the Congress stood third with 67. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) won two seats, both in Phagwara.
However, in what could be seen as disillusionment among urban voters not only with the ruling alliance but also with the opposition Congress, Independents won 64 wards. The impressive show by Independents, majority of them being party rebels, assumes significance as the SAD-BJP as well as the Congress had fielded their candidates from all the MC wards on their symbols.
It was on February 22 that elections were held for the newly-formed five corporations in Hoshiarpur, Phagwara, Pathankot, Mohali and Moga, while for Bathinda, the backyard of the ruling Badals, it was the second MC election. Each has 50 seats. Election in one ward of Pathankot had been postponed due to the death of a BJP candidate, while the result of one in Mohali remains sealed as per court directions.
Of the three bypolls, specifically, the SAD won the two in Patiala and the Congress won the one ward in Jalandhar. For the 122 municipal councils and nagar panchayats, the voting had been held on Wednesday, and the results declared the same evening.
Among those elected to the corporations, around 100 are women, while as many are first-time winners.
The rebels’ role dented the victory march of the SAD-BJP at some places. For instance, in Phagwara, former cabinet minister Swarna Ram’s son Manjit Chaudhary was humbled by an Independent who was actually a BJP rebel. And, in Pathankot, the BJP’s official candidate was trounced by the saffron party’s rebel Narinder Kala, nephew of former minister Master Mohan Lal.
The highest number of Independents, 17, all SAD rebels, won in Moga where the SAD-BJP together won 32 seats, and the Congress got the remaining one out of the 50. It was an Akali-versus-Akali contest there as agriculture minister Tota Singh and SAD MLA Joginder Pal Jain had fielded Independent candidates against official SAD candidates. While three winning Independents owe allegiance to Jain, 14 belong to the Tota Singh camp.
Not dismal for Cong
The not-so-bad performance of the Congress in the corporation polls is in sharp contrast to the rout the party suffered in the councils and nagar panchayats.
In Phagwara and Mohali, the Congress gave a tough fight to the SAD-BJP and won 14 seats in each. The party also put up a stiff fight in BJP-dominated Hoshiarpur and bagged 17 wards, restricting the SAD-BJP tally to 27 in the House of 50.
Though the SAD-BJP alliance won 29 seats of the Bathinda MC, the verdict is being seen as a setback as the tally is nine lower than its pervious tally. Of the 11 winning Independents in Bathinda, though, are eight SAD or BJP’s rebels. firstname.lastname@example.org