The BJP trounced the Congress in the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation (MC) elections on Tuesday by bagging 20 seats in the 26-ward civic body with its ally Shiromani Akali Dal winning one. The Congress could manage to win only four seats.One seat was bagged by an independent.
The victory of the saffron party is particularly significant since demonetisation emerged as a major issue in the polls. With this, the BJP continued its winning streak since the 2014 Lok Sabha polls when Kirron Kher had defeated Congress’ Pawan Kumar Bansal.
Interestingly, the Congress may have won just four seats as against 11 in the previous 2011 polls, its vote share by and large remains the same. As against 34.11% votes in 2011 polls, the party bagged 33.57% this time. The BJP on the other hand gained considerably from 28.16% vote share in 2011 to 42.98%. The major losers were the BSP and independents (see chart).
Many of the veteran Congress leaders perished in the party’s worst defeat since the first MC poll of 1996 when the party had won just one seat. Among the party’s main top guns who failed to deliver are former mayors Subhash Chawla and Poonam Sharma, and local party chief Pardeep Chhabra’s wife Ritu Chhabra, whose candidature will raise many questions. Party’s Devinder Singh Babla redeemed some pride by defeating BJP’s Saurabh Joshi.
“Mein Congress mukt Chandigarh, PM Modi aur BJP president Amit Shah ke charnon mein arpit karti hoon.” Kirron Kher, BJP MP
On the other hand, BJP’s established leaders faced little resistance and recorded fairly facile wins. Sitting mayor Arun Sood and councillors like Davesh Moudgil, Raj Bala Malik and Hira Negi all cruised along.
Though usually civic polls are contested on local issues, this time the Congress made demonetisation a major issue, hoping to cash in on the “inconvenience” that people faced following the move. Former Congress MP and ex-railway minister Pawan Kumar urged voters to teach the Modi government a lesson for its “thoughtless” move of note ban. Post polls, however, it’s the BJP that sees the win as a positive vote for demonetisation.
BJP chief Amit Shah congratulated local leaders and workers and said that the party has been winning every election after the demonetisation move.
BJP Lok Sabha member Kirron Kher said that the voters endorsed the step as it was against corruption besides other pro-people steps and overall development. “All schemes launched by the PM are implemented in Chandigarh at the ground level,” she said. “People have voted for development and demonetisation,” added mayor Arun Sood.
“I take responsibility for the party’s defeat under my leadership and submit my resignation from the post of president.” Pardeep Chhabra, UT Congress chief
The Congress still doesn’t believe it’s a vote in favour of demonetisation. “I don’t think it can be termed as a mandate for demonetisation especially since 40% people didn’t even vote,” says Bansal, citing 60% polling. “We, however, respect the verdict of the people. We’ll sit and analyse what went wrong.”