The CPI(M), which has been struggling to maintain its national relevance, sprang a surprise in Shimla by wresting the offices of mayor and deputy mayor from the Congress, which had held them for 25 years.
The CPI(M) did not have any major electoral success in Shimla before. The electoral outcome came as a shock for the BJP, the ruling party in Himachal Pradesh, which is going to polls this year.
The elections to the offices of mayor and deputy mayor were directly held for the first time.
In Shimla the mayor is the nominal head of the corporation and the executive chief is the municipal commissioner.
For the mayor’s post, Sanjay Chauhan of the CPI(M) defeated the BJP’s Satinder Singh Manhas by 7,868 votes, while incumbent mayor Madhu Sood of the Congress was pushed to third position.
For the post of deputy mayor, the CPI(M)’s Tikender Panwar defeated his nearest rival Digvijay Chauhan of the BJP by 4,768 votes. However, the BJP won 12 of the total 25 wards, and the Congress 10. The CPI(M) increased its tally from two to three.
Chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, along with his cabinet colleagues, had campaigned for the BJP. On the other hand, dissensions in the Congress were manifest in the party’s campaigning. Himachal Pradesh Congress committee president Kaul Singh Thakur and Congress legislature party leader Vidya Stokes campaigned jointly with Union minister Virbhadra Singh, who is also former chief minister of the state.
Anand Sharma, another Union minister, came for a day but just met members of various organisations.
In Delhi, the Congress said civic polls were fought on local issues and their outcome had no bearing on assembly or Lok Sabha elections. But the central leadership admitted that a victory in the polls would have given a boost to the Congress ahead of the assembly elections.