When her name was announced from the City Beautiful, leaving three established leaders of the party sulking, few expected her to trump four-time Congress MP and former railways minister Pawan Kumar Bansal.
As the election progressed, Kher had no concrete plans for the city’s development. All she did was to ask for votes in the name of BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. And, the Modi magic worked for her, making her the first woman MP from Chandigarh.
She defeated Bansal, who had won the seat thrice in a row, by the highest-ever margin of 69,642 votes in the city.
Bansal polled over 1.21 lakh votes, while Kher got 1.91 lakh votes. Gul Panag of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), who ran an excellent campaign, trailed with 1.08 lakh votes.
Though the former union minister was confident, the anti-incumbency undercurrent against the scandal-ridden United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, allegations in the railgate scam and anger against price rise appear to have derailed him.
To make matters worse, no senior Congress leader, especially Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, visited the city in his support, whereas Modi held a rally for his party’s nominee.
AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal also held a roadshow in the city. “It is all a part of the game. I congratulate Kirron Kher for her splendid victory. I thank the people of Chandigarh, who voted for me and stood by me. I will continue to serve the people of the city,” Bansal told Hindustan Times after the results.
The 65-year-old minister had been sailing smoothly till last year till the arrest of his nephew Vijay Singla by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for fixing a post in the railway ministry in 2013 during his tenure as railway minister.
A media firestorm and opposition demands for his resignation forced him to step down. Though the CBI later made him a prosecution witness in the case, the going has not been comfortable for him ever since.
First, some local leaders opposed his candidature and then the BJP and the AAP continuously raised the issue during the poll campaigning.
Now, his defeat is likely to add fuel to the fire. With voices of dissent growing, it may not be easy for an ageing Bansal to get back on track.