The Shiromani Akali Dal's (SAD) 'meet the councillors' exercise to finalise a name for the mayor's post proved a futile exercise with sharp differences among the party councillors coming to fore.
All the 33 SAD councillors were in Chandigarh on Friday to appear before the three-member screening committee comprising secretary general of the party Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, general secretary Balwinder Singh Bhunder and education minister and SAD affairs incharge for Patiala, Sikander Singh Maluka.
The counillors were divided in opinion over their choice for the coveted post from among the three main contenders - Ajit Pal Singh Kohli, Amaninder Bajaj and Harpal Juneja. There were few takers for projection of Jaspal Singh Bittu Chattha as the mayoral candidate, who happens to be the choice of cabinet minister Surjit Singh Rakhra. Sources said a few councillors, including Balbir Kharaur and Surinder Phalwan from the Rakhra group, strongly opposed candidature of Bittu Chattha, questioning the very basis on which the latter was being projected as the mayoral candidate.
All the councillors were called one by one by the screening panel and were asked to give two names for the coveted post. They were also asked to suggest ways to strengthen the party base in Patiala city.
Sources said apart from the four main contenders, five more councillors requested the screening committee to provide them a chance to become mayor.
Meanwhile, when contacted, Maluka said the screening committee would send the 'feelings' of the councillors to party chief Sukbhir Badal, who would take the final call on the issue.
“All councillors were unanimous about giving right of selecting the mayor to the SAD chief. It was a good exercise where the councillors were given a chance to speak about their feeling,” said Maluka.
Interestingly, a SAD councillor (name not disclosed) asked the screening committee to provide him a chance to become mayor, as he could manage more than 1 lakh votes for the party. The answer of one of the committee members was: “If you are so strong, why don't you become the chief minister of Punjab”.