Even as issues concerning people seem to have been put on the backburner for the ensuing polls to the municipal corporation Bathinda (MCB), the polls will a test of political parties and alliances nine months after the parliamentary polls.
Though the SAD-BJP alliance had swept the last elections to the urban body in 2008 by winning 26 and 14 seats respectively -- the Congress had won just six seats and independents four -- the situation doesn’t seem to be easy for the ruling alliance this time, keeping in view the thrashing it had received in the parliamentary elections.
However, the bickering in alliances and within the parties will affect the final poll outcome to a large extent.
Rebels -- six from the BJP and four from the SAD -- have filed papers and if they stay in contest, both parties would suffer. The contest will be a battle between chief parliamentary secretary and Bathinda (urban) MLA Sarup Chand Singla and former MLA and Congress leader Harminder Singh Jassi, who is the de facto incharge for the polls.
The SAD-BJP alliance, especially the SAD, is trying hard to recover its lost ground in the town taking these elections as an opportunity, and the stakes are high for Singla, because if the alliance does not perform well, again anti-incumbency that was witnessed here last year would be at work.
Besides, the relations between both have not been smooth for past some time with the BJP repeatedly having expressed its resentment against the SAD. The leaders and cadres of both the parties are yet to shun that bitterness and leaders feel the disgruntled cadres can internally spoil the chances of both in the polls.
The BJP had tried to put pressure on the SAD to increase the quota of its seats to 25 wards, but the party had to remain content with 22 seats of the last time. The BJP had also boycotted the flagging-off of the Bathinda-Delhi Shatabdi express train after the party had been ignored in the state government advertisements.
The challenge before the Congress is to keep the momentum of the parliamentary polls. If the Congress fares badly
despite the SAD having trailed behind Congress by over 29,000 votes in the town in the Lok Sabha polls, it would put a question mark on Jassi’s leadership.
The situation is also not so good in the Congress camp as its alliance with the People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) hasn’t materialised yet; besides, there has been internal bickering in the party.
Despite having announced an alliance earlier, the PPP now has fielded candidates on 12 wards while the Congress was ready to allow only three seats to the PPP. Many Congress leaders are also raising question marks over the distribution of tickets.
Delay in new ISBT and Ring Road Phase 1 project
The state government has sanctioned new Inter-State Bus Terminus (ISBT) on the Bathinda- Barnala road which is aimed at reducing traffic congestion within the town. But the project is yet to start as the military authorities are yet to sanction it. The military authorities had objected to the earlier plan of the authorities after which an amended plan was sent in September last year, but things are yet to move. Similarly, the work on Ring Road Phase 2 is yet to start as the matter is pending in the court. The road will connect the Bathinda-Barnala road with the Bathinda-Mansa road and will ease out traffic congestion in the town.
Stray cattle menace
Despite the urban body being the first one in the state to start levying of cow cess for managing the stray cattle, hundreds of cattle are there on the town roads causing inconvenience to locals. The cow cess on different business establishments by the MCB was announced in July last year, but only Rs 18 lakh has been collected so far compared to an estimated collection of Rs 35 lakh per month. As per an estimate, over 2,000 stray cattle are roaming on the town roads besides 1,900 in cow sheds for which the MCB is paying Rs 10 lakh per month. Only oil depots have started paying the cess while cement suppliers, Punjab State Power Corporation Limited and the excise department are yet to start paying this.
Such is the state of implementation of projects of sewerage and sanitation in the town that a sewerage line that constitutes the area adjoining Paras Ram Nagar and Jogi Nagar has been laid but it has not been made functional over a year as disposal for the sewerage is yet to be constructed. Besides, a major sewerage project worth Rs 185 crore sanctioned for the town is yet to start.
Resentment against solid waste treatment plant
The people of the localities on the Bathinda-Mansa road are not happy with the sanction of the solid waste treatment plant in their vicinity. After a long-drawn legal battle, the National Green Tribunal had given the green signal to setting up of the plant at the place in November and work on the plant has started, but the locals have resentment against the ruling establishment over it. firstname.lastname@example.org
The elected representatives should work on winning the trust of people and remove the impression that they are into politics to make money, which can be done by working on a particular agenda they set during the elections.
NK Gosain, dean, Malwa college
From day one, elected representatives should start on development agenda and address people’s issues, which are going unheard due to non-existence of an elected body for past over a year.
Baltej Singh, president of minibus operators’ union
The elected representatives should start work on addressing the daily issue being faced by the common man as an ordinary man has to struggle even for getting his routine works done from the urban body.
Sonu Maheshwari, activist of NGO Naujawan Welfare Society
The elected councillors should dare call a spade a spade from day one without compromising on their integrity. Only then they can succeed in ensuring development work.
Karnail Singh, a retired teacher
Five big fights
Ward No 3: SAD’s Rajinder Singh Sidhu versus PPP’s Devinder Singh
Ward No 15: Former mayor SAD’s Baljit Singh Beerbehman versus Congress’s Jagmit Singh
Ward No 17: SAD’s Harmandar Singh Sidhu versus Congress’s Arvinder Kumar Garg
Ward No 48: Congress’s Jagroop Singh Gill versus SAD’s Desh Raj Gur
Ward No 21: BJP’s Tarsem Goyal versus Congress’s Manjit Babli
Total wards: 50
General wards: 23
Reserved for women: 13
Reserved for SC: 8
Reserved for SC women: 4
Reserved for BC: 2
Total number of voters under MCB: 2,03,075
Male voters: 1,06,860
Female voters: 96,215
Candidates left in fray after scrutiny: 253