With barely five days left for the first-ever municipal corporation elections in Hoshiarpur, the city is witnessing intense political rivalry, with 200 candidates in the fray from 49 wards. After clinching an ‘unopposed’ win in ward No 7, the BJP faction led by former minister Tikshan Sud has set its sights on the mayoral seat, for which its top choice is his wife, Rakesh Sud.
Tikshan and his close confidant, district BJP president Shiv Sood, have been accused of shaping wards as per what suits them. Delimitation and reservation of wards left most of their potential challengers high and dry. The faction managed to get the maximum seats for its favourites, yet it has fielded proxy candidates in wards from where candidates close to Union minister Vijay Sampla or Rajya Sabha member Avinash Rai Khanna are contesting.
In wards numbers 3, 4, 14 and 36, those being projected as ‘rebels’ have in fact been fielded intentionally to create hurdles in the way of official candidates.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Congress are also sailing in the same boat, facing opposition from within. The SAD is contesting from 17 seats on its own symbol and supporting the BJP from the rest, while the Congress has put up its candidates from all 49 wards.
District Congress president Sunder Sham Arora drew flak from his own men for the dramatic rejection of party candidate’s nomination papers, which paved the way for the unopposed victory of the BJP nominee (Rakesh Sud). Barring a few former councillors, the Congress has fielded unfamiliar faces.
The Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) decision not to contest the MC elections came as a big relief to the major parties, but its prominent leaders are part of the Bhrashtachar Mukt Hoshiarpur Vikas Manch, which is supporting 38 Independents, including rebels of other parties. The forum was created recently with the aim of ‘exposing corruption in the outgoing municipal council”. It is distributing pamphlets among voters, urging them to choose honest candidates.
The five-year tenure of the BJP-led previous civic body was marked by controversies. There were numerous complaints of corruption, discrimination and nepotism against officials as well as elected representatives of the ruling party, but the Congress failed to play the role of an effective opposition. The BJP paid the price for its failings in the 2012 assembly elections, but it is expecting a big win in the upcoming corporation polls (Hoshiarpur was accorded corporation status last year).
The outgoing municipal council had cleared a budget of Rs 36.14 crore for 2014-15, of which Rs 17.6 crore were earmarked for establishment, Rs 17.74 crore for development and Rs 81 lakh for contingency services. Till January 31, an expenditure of Rs 28.19 crore had been made.
Most of the roads in the city are broken. Potholes cause accidents as well as traffic chaos. The quality of material used in road-laying has been questionable. For the past year, there has virtually been no road work as tenders floated by the MC had to be cancelled amid allegations of favouritism. Work orders were placed for some of the projects just before the announcement of the elections, but work could not take off as the model code of conduct came into effect.
The traffic situation can improve in the city to a large extent if proper parking lots are created, but despite assurances, successive councils have failed to demarcate any place where people can park their vehicles. Due to the authorities’ slackness, new commercial buildings continue to be raised without leaving ample parking space. The rise in the number of vehicles is worsening the situation.
The sanitary conditions leave a lot to be desired. Recently, the garbage collection system was revamped, but garbage is still littered everywhere. The Bhangi ‘choe’ (rivulet) has become a dumping ground for waste. Sewers are not cleaned regularly. At many places, illegal constructions have been done on drains, making cleaning difficult. Public toilets are seldom cleaned.
Storm water management
People suffer huge losses every rainy season due to the backlash of accumulated rainwater in sewers, but no plan is in sight to tackle this problem. A separate storm water system is a major demand which successive political dispensations have preferred to ignore, given its high cost.
The city is virtually under siege from encroachers, thanks to local leaders. The anti-encroachment drives conducted once in a while prove to be mere eyewash. The situation is particularly alarming around the bus stand, Clock Tower, Phagwara Road, Sutehri Road and Sessions Chowk. Officials confide that political interference does not allow things to improve.
Wards going to polls 49
(BJP candidate elected unopposed in ward 7)
General wards 23
General wards for women 12
Reserved for SC men 7
Reserved for SC women 6
Reserved for BC 2
Total voters 1.17 lakh
Candidates left in fray after scrutiny 200
5 BIG FIGHTS
Ward 2: Former municipal council president and district BJP chief Shiv Sood pitted against a newcomer, advocate Lovekesh Ohri (Congress)
Ward 4: Rajya Sabha MP Avinash Rai Khanna’s political adviser Sanjiv Talwar’s wife Neeti Talwar versus Seema Soni (Congress) and BJP’s proxy candidate Sandeepni Saggar
Ward 23: Market committee chairman Avtar Singh Johal locked in a four-cornered contest, facing challenge from the Congress and three Independents.
Ward 31: SAD’s former general council member and MC vice-president Khraiti Lal Katna’s daughter-in-law Monica takes on Ritu Bansal (BJP) and Raj Kumari (Congress)
Ward 35: Journalist and youngest candidate in the fray, 31-year-old Nipun Sharma (BJP), versus former councillor Madan Lal Gandhi (Congress).
Insanitary conditions and encroachments are two major issues which should be taken up on priority. Roads have shrunk and the traffic is increasing. At peak hours, roads are terribly choked.
Maninder Pal Singh, advocate
Potholed roads are a real nightmare, especially for two-wheeler riders. A little rain turns the roads into cesspools. The city also lacks a proper drainage system, as a result of which water gets accumulated on roads.
Ravinder Singh Thakur, doctor
Encroachments and lack of parking space are major irritants. The sanitary conditions also need to be improved. The MC authorities should deal strictly with encroachers and those who litter roads.
Aparna Sharma, student
The previous MC failed in every department, be it sanitation, water supply, sewerage or street lighting. Drinking water becomes scarce in the summer. The councillors should fulfil public aspirations, as that’s what they are elected for.
Sunny Kalra, businessman