Not relying on family legacies for once, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Monday chose senior local leader Jaspal Pardhan, considered a man close to the grassroots, as the new mayor of Patiala.
An urban Sikh, Pardhan, is a close associate of rural development minister Surjit Singh Rakhra and is the seniormost among the councillors in the newly elected 50-member MC that is dominated by the SAD with 33 members.
From SAD's partner BJP, which has seven councillors, Jagdish Rai Chaudhary was picked as the senior deputy mayor and Harinder Kohli as deputy mayor.
The SAD decision - a formality completed by the councillors at a meeting -- came as a shocker for the Kohli, Bajaj and Tohra families, which have dominated party affairs for the past three decades. Outgoing mayor Ajit Pal Singh Kohli was eyeing the post for a second term, but charges of corruption levelled against him in his tenure, party sources said, prompted SAD chief and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal not to pick him.
Ajit Pal's father Surjit Singh Kohli remained a minister in the 1997-2002 cabinet of Parkash Singh Badal, while his grandfather Sardara Singh Kohli was also a leader considered close to the late Akali stalwart Gurcharan Singh Tohra. New deputy mayor Harinder Kohli shares the surname but is not connected to the legacy.
The future of Harinderpal Tohra, the third-generation carrier of the Tohra legacy, also looks uncertain now. He is the son of Kuldeep Kaur Tohra, late Gurcharan Singh Tohra's foster daughter. Kuldeep Kaur had unsuccessfully contested the assembly poll from Patiala-rural segment.
Another claimant, Amaninder Bajaj, a third-generation leader from a family of cloth merchants, has been denied the coveted post because of his "non-commanding nature and very soft personality". His grandfather Manmohan Singh Bajaj was the improvement trust chairman, a post later held by Amaninder's father Inder Mohan Singh Bajaj.
With the strategy of an urban Sikh mayor in a Hindu dominant city, after Kohli and Amaninder the SAD was left with little option, and Pardhan was chosen for his seniority.
It is learnt that SAD in-charge for the corporation polls, Sikander Singh Maluka, played a key role in turning the tables in Pardhan's favour. Though Pardhan was not interested to contest the MC polls, and had wanted the ticket for his son Preetinder Singh, he had been asked to contest by Maluka.