The Congress suffered a humiliating defeat in the Punjab civic elections with the ruling Akali Dal-BJP combine registering a resounding victory, winning in 83 of the 122 municipal councils (MCs) and nagar panchayats where the polling was held on Wednesday.
Billed as a “semifinal” in the run-up to the 2017 assembly elections, the scale of the faction-ridden Congress’ crushing defeat was such that state Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa failed to capture power in any of the MCs in his home district of Gurdaspur. The Congress lost even from Bajwa’s home turf Qadian, where the party won just two of the 15 wards, while nine seats went to the SAD and four to Independents.
Of the total 2,044 wards of 122 civic bodies, the SAD won 915 and the BJP 343, Independents got elected in 509 wards, while the Congress tally was restricted to 272. The People’s Party of Punjab won two wards of Gobindgarh MC, while the BSP won three wards of Bhaipura nagar panchayat in Bathinda, and Nakodar and Nurmahal MCs in Jalandhar.
The saving grace for the Congress was their victory at Patran, Doraha and Nawanshahr towns. In Khanna, Malerkotla, Gidderbaha and Sultanpur Lodhi, the Congress is in a position to rule with the support of Independents.
As many as 160 candidates — 56 in Bathinda district alone — had been declared elected unopposed from among the 7,006 candidates in the fray.
Earlier, the polling started in the morning on a brisk note and the voter turnout touched the 79% mark.
Barring stray incidents at some booths of Samana and Ferozepur, the polling across the state passed off peacefully.
Soon after the polling was over, the counting of the votes was done, giving the much-needed boost to the SAD-BJP camp.
State election commissioner SS Brar said, “The election was by and large peaceful except at some booths at Samana and Ferozepur. Re-polling will be held at five booths.”
Independents sprang a major surprise by clinching a majority in near 30 MCs, in a clear reflection of the rebellion which had primarily gripped the SAD-BJP, and in a few MCs also the Congress.
Buoyed by the verdict, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal described the mandate as the “triumph of clean, transparent and good governance” of the alliance over the “malicious propaganda based on divisive politics and dirty tactics applied by the Congress”. He said the victory had once again demonstrated people’s faith in the policies and programmes of the alliance government.
BJP president Kamal Sharma said it was a victory of the “development agenda” pursued by the ruling alliance.
In Amritsar, the alliance won all five committees, while it made a clean sweep in Ferozepur, Tarn Taran, Moga and Mohali districts.
In Bathinda district, considered the citadel of the Badals, the SAD-BJP won in 13 of the 18 MCs. Here, 66 Independents emerged victorious while the Congress won just eight wards.
Even in Abohar, the assembly segment of Congress Legislature Party leader Sunil Jakhar, the Congress won 13 wards of the 33, while the SAD won three and the BJP 11 wards. Here, five Independents hold the key to the committee.
The SAD won a decisive victory over the BJP in Tarn Taran, where the alliance partners fought a bitter battle against each other. Despite the challenge from the BJP, the Akalis retained their hold on the Tarn Taran MC, winning 16 seats with the remaining seven going to the BJP. The Congress drew a blank. The defeat of the BJP at the hands of the SAD in Tarn Taran is being seen as a personal loss for local bodies minister Anil Joshi, whose prestige was at stake in his home town. He had dared to challenge the local SAD here.The Congress faced a total rout in the Majha belt, failing to win any of the 16 MCs. In Batala, where local MLA Ashwani Sekhri was unhappy over Bajwa’s interference, the Congress failed to open its account.In Amritsar district, the SAD-BJP alliance retained power in all five MCs of Ajnala, Ramdass, Majitha, Rayya and Jandiala -- a personal victory of sorts for revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia. email@example.com