The plans of local SAD leader Lakhbir Singh Lodhinangal to let down the BJP with the support of Congress MLA Ashwani Sekhri went awry when a councillor selected by both these leaders for the post of president was rejected by the deputy commissioner, who declared the election to the post of municipal council president as “null and void”.
Gurdaspur DC Abhinav Trikha had called a meeting of the House on August 6 for the election of the MC president, but before the commencement of the meeting, the local administration pasted a notice outside the meeting hall that the meeting had been postponed till further orders.
Agitated over the postponement of the meeting for the third consecutive time, Lodhinangal called all the six SAD councillors and eight BJP dissident councillors to the meeting hall and decided to carry on the proceedings of the meeting in the presence of MC executive officer MS Bandesha. But when Lodhinangal asked Bandesha for the proceedings register, the MC executive officer left the meeting hall.
Interestingly, local MLA Ashwani Sekhri, who was also present in the council office along with six Congress councillors, joined the Akali leader during the so-called election proceedings and later both Sekhri and Lodhinangal announced BJP councillor Jatinder Kalyan as the new president of the municipal council at a joint press conference.
Talking to HT, Lodhinangal blamed Batala BJP incharge Bakshi Ram Arora, former district BJP president Naresh Mahajan and councillor Dharma Vir Seth for the postponement of the meeting. He said these BJP leaders forced the ADC to remain absent from the meeting.
He further said that keeping in view the poor civic conditions in the city, he, along with 22 councillors, had decided to hold the elections. Lodhinangal said they took the new proceedings register and elected SAD councillor Balbir Singh Bittu as election convener and later elected BJP councillor Jatinder Kalyan as president and SAD councillor Randhir Singh as vice-president.
On the other hand, the other group led by Batala BJP incharge Bakshi Ram Arora held a parallel meeting of BJP councillors at a hotel, where 11 BJP councillors were present. The rest of the eight councillors preferred to show their loyalty to Lodhinangal, a former SAD MLA, instead of adhering to the guidelines issued by the BJP, on whose ticket they won the civic elections.
State BJP president Ashwani Sharma said he was not aware of these developments, but assured strict action against the BJP councillors who disregarded the party guidelines.
Refuting Lodhinangal’s allegations, Batala BJP incharge Bakshi Ram Arora said that as per the guidelines of the local bodies department, the Gurdaspur deputy commissioner had appointed an ADC as returning officer to conduct these elections.
He said that by blaming him for the postponement of the meeting, the SAD leader was raising a question mark on the relationship between the alliance partners. The matter will be brought to the notice of SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, he added.
Asked about the action against the eight BJP councillors who disobeyed the guidelines of the party, he said he had brought the entire matter to the notice of the state BJP president and he had also asked the district BJP president to send a report to the state leadership in this regard.
Action will be taken these eight BJP councillors on the basis of the report, said Arora.
Talking to HT, Trikha said that though the administration had convened a meeting of the House for the elections, additional deputy commissioner (general) Baljeet Singh, who was supposed to administrate the proceedings of the elections, went on leave citing ill health.
Calling the proceedings as unconstitutional, he said, “A notice was pasted outside the meeting hall to convey that the meeting had been postponed. They were answerable for what they did.”
A senior BJP councillor not wishing to be named blamed district BJP president Ashok Modgil for the groupism.
He said that on July 31, a meeting of local BJP office-bearers was held under the leadership of Bakhshi Ram and former BJP minister Arunesh Shaker, where, after taking the views of all the councillors and office-bearers, the two BJP leaders approve the name of Dharamvir Seth for the president’s post, but the district BJP president, who was backing another councillor, called Lodhinangal and Akali councillors to the BJP meeting to demonstrate his strength.