Even as the reservation of the mayoral seat for a woman comes up in court on Tuesday, politics in SAS Nagar is seeing a change in hues already. As per the schedule, with just one day left for the city to elect its first mayor of corporation, both the Congress and the SAD-BJP are working out combinations with the 13 Independents who hold the key in the House of 50.
However, the SAD-led Punjab government's move to reserve the seat is clearly being seen as a move to keep Azad Group leader Kulwant Singh, who has support of 11 of the Independents. And this, sources said, has antagonised the expelled Akali leader enough for him to look towards with the Congress. The Congress has 14 seats, plus the vote of ex officio member, MLA Balbir Sidhu. Adding the 11 from Kulwant's stable it hits the magic mark.
This was further heightened by a police raid on a medical store run by Kulwant group's councillor Rajni Goyal for alleged misappropriation. Goyal, the independent councillors and also those from the Congress alleged that this was deliberately being done by the SAD-BJP to mount pressure on independent winners. "This is gunda raj; but this is a city of educated people who will not tolerate such a thing. They (SAD-BJP) want to break up Independents by these cheap tactics," said Congress MLA Sidhu.
The SAD-BJP combine is on 23 now - after the high court on Monday cleared the desk for announcement of Sukhdev Singh Patwari's win - and is seeking to at least grab the two Independents who are not expressly with Kulwant.
Condition: 'Oust Ramoowali'
The SAD, realising that its senior leader Balwant Singh Ramoowalia is not quite a favourite of the Independents, has sidelined him. Now it is SAD observer Mahesh Inder Grewal who is leading the charming tactics. One of the non-aligned Independents, Manjit Sethi, has been called for discussion at least thrice by the SAD officials. All Sethi wants is Ramoowalia's exit from the party, and he has reportedly assured support if that's done.
Grewal, meanwhile, claimed the party has already got the needed support.
Interestingly, Manjit Sethi is one of the two petitioners against the reservation of the seat for a woman after the corporation has been chosen.
There is a possibility that the Punjab and Haryana High court decides to give a stay on petitions filed by two of the Independents against reserving the mayoral post for a woman. In that case the political wrangling would be elongated.
The court did on Monday refused stay on another petition that had demanded secret ballot instead of show of hands for the mayor polls.