One could hear a pin drop at former railway minister and Congress candidate Pawan Bansal's residence at Sector 28 on Friday afternoon, as it became clear that the Chandigarh MP for the last three times in a row will lose the seat. As it later transpired, he lost by 69,642 votes, the highest-ever for the city, polling
1,21, 720 votes.
The day started as usual for him as he rose even before sunrise, at around 5:30am. A quick shower and prayer followed by a cup of tea was what it took for him to be ready to accept the people's verdict, and as the day wore on, he looked increasingly downcast. The handful of supporters that had gathered before counting began also dwindled away as the trends that showed him trailing trickled in.
So, as Bansal with wife Madhu visited the counting centre at around 9:30am and was back in half an hour, the writing was on the wall and the deserted Congress office in Sector 35 said it all.
It is clear that the Railgate, the infighting within the party, the anti-incumbency against the UPA, the nation-wide Modi wave and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) factors combined led to the defeat of the four-time parliamentarian.
With the Congress suffering a humiliating defeat across the country and Bansal losing, in what was his bastion, is it curtains on the political career of the veteran political leader?
Bansal, who had held important positions in the UPA-1 and UPA-11 including the parliamentary affairs ministry and the railway ministry, will be without any work now as HT brings you the reasons for the loss.
Less than expected votes from colonies
As more than half of the 6.13 lakh voters were from colonies and villages and the turnout here had always been high, Bansal had expected a sizeable number of votes. He probably failed to hold ground here against the Modi wave. The BJP's focus on highlighting the Railgate, where his nephew was caught by the CBI accepting `90 lakh for a posting, when he was the railway minister, probably influenced the voters. AAP candidate Gul Panag also took away some of these votes.
Infighting a let down
Another factor leading to the downfall of Bansal was the infighting among the local Congress unit. Several local leaders had opposed his candidature and applied for the ticket.
These included former general secretary Chander Mukhi Sharma; Chandigarh Congress Committee member Bhupender Singh Badheri; senior party leader Chaman Lal Sharma; and Punjab State Education Board's former employee Kewal Ram. Former president of Youth Congress Chandigarh unit HS Lucky had also sought the ticket, but withdrew his name after a patch-up with Bansal. Such leaders' support remained superficial and contributed to the loss.
These leaders had, at various times, also accused Bansal of relying only on relatives for campaigning. He was also accused of ignoring the workers' demands.
Though he introduced 15 trains from Chandigarh and upgraded government schools, residents probably felt that he failed to deliver on promises. The non-implementation of a Balanced Rent Act irked a section of the voters. He also failed to bring about the promised relaxation in building bylaws. The municipal corporation was not given additional powers; SC/ST certificates not issued to beneficiaries and the issue of Lal Dora remained unresolved.
Losing is part of the election game and I congratulate BJP's Kirron Kher for her splendid victory. I thank the people of Chandigarh, who voted by me and stood by me. I will continue to serve the people of the city.
Pawan Kumar Bansal, Cong candidate
It is big setback. We failed to understand the mood of the people. A lot of development work was done over 15 years, but were not convincing enough. We will inquire into the loss. Bansal is a politician. His era can never end and elections are held every five years.BB Bahl, president, Chandigarh Territorial Congress Committee (CTCC)
Five reasons, which led to the downfall of Bansal
1. The Railgate in which his nephew was caught allegedly accepting money
2. Anti-incumbency as he had been the city MP for three terms
3. His underestimation of the AAP's ability to cut into his vote bank
4. Infighting among local Congress leaders
5. The Modi wave, which swept Kirron Kher to victory