There are no rallies, no nukkad meetings, and no road shows in Garhshankar. Candidates go door to door sans flags and garlands, alone usually. Electioneering in this subdivision is kept low key, as candidates fear revealing their supporters to poachers.
The contenders want to avoid risk. “Once our rivals know whom we have contacted, they will reach them in no time and get them on their side. Given the unpredictability of the results, even the local voters prefer not to be seen as aligned with any party,” said one of the candidates.
The Congress, is also playing safe, not contesting on the party symbol and letting all ticket aspirants fight as independents to contain rebellion. The BJP and the SAD, partners in the state’s ruling coalition, battle internal strife. Local legislator, SAD district president, and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) member Surinder Singh Bhulewal Rathan, is leading the party campaign in six of the 13 wards.
The BJP got a share of seven seats to contest but it has put up candidates for six, leaving Ward 7 open. The biggest contest is in Ward 3, where Sunil “Lovely” Khanna, brother of Rajya Sabha member Avinash Rai Khanna; and former municipal council president Rajinder Singh Shooka, also a Khanna loyalist, are pitted against each other. Khanna, so far, has not campaigned for any of the two. When Lovely got the ticket, Shooka quit the party and turned independent. “Khannaji had assured me that I would be the candidate, but at the eleventh hour the party fielded his brother. I felt betrayed, since I was the BJP’s first MC president here to complete five-year term,” said Shooka.