Harjinder Kaur, a four-time Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) councillor from ward 15 of Chandigarh, calls herself a reluctant politician.
Kaur, who has been representing the ward comprising Sectors 34, 35 and 44 since the Chandigarh municipal corporation (MC) elections began in 1996, was elected city mayor twice — in 2001 and 2007.
“I am a reluctant politician even today since I always believed in social service,” she says.
Kaur, who has a knack for taking up challenges, is likely to take the poll plunge for the fifth time. Her ward has been reserved for women this time.
She has played a proactive role in the civic body’s general House meetings and was always vocal about issues concerning her ward.
Several residents of her ward, especially of Sector 35 where she resides, say she has been largely accessible to them and credit her with a slew of development works.
But many feel that her main focus has been on Sector 35. She, however, managed to bring some important projects to Sector 34. But the picture is not all rosy. Residents of Sector 44-D contend that hardly any work was done in their localities — be it re-carpeting of roads or maintenance of green belts.
She could not get a ‘safai sehaj kendra’ in Sector 34, as a result of which the market area remains dotted with garbage.
She could not resolve the long-standing issue of parking chaos in Sector 34 and 35 markets. The back lane of the Sector 35 hotel market has been ill-maintained and it was only by the fag end of her tenure that work to improve sanitation scenario started in the area.
Counting her achievements, the councillor says she introduced some skill development programmes and got removed encroachments from the Sector 35-A green belt.
The green belt is being reconstructed after she got small government offices violations removed from there.
It was the first chief commissioner of Chandigarh, MS Randhawa, who had laid the foundation stone of the green belt decades back, but it was never maintained.
“I am not satisfied the way things function in Chandigarh. The implementation system is inefficient and it is difficult to bring about change,” Kaur says.
She says the green belt is being developed aesthetically with themes like four seasons. It has artistic murals and fountains.
Kaur, who hails from Kapurthala in Punjab, shifted to Chandigarh after she got married to Manmohan Singh, an educationist.
During her first stint as councillor, the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in-charge of the local unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Kaur contested elections on BJP-SAD alliance ticket. She says, “I emulated Modi then for his firm passion for work.”
Kaur says when she contested for the first time, she was a familiar name in the social-work circle and it was residents who pushed her to contest the councillor’s elections during a meeting ahead of the MC poll.
Kaur says she walked out of the meeting as she was not keen on contesting. But it was her father-in-law who encouraged her enter the fray.
“My father-in-law told me ‘if everyone is suggesting your name, take it as if you have to serve them’ and I took the plunge,” Kaur says.
As mayor she conceived the idea of food street, mahila bhawan and organised a national conference of mayors in Chandigarh.
She also represented the country in the World Congress of Local Bodies in South Korea.
Tomorrow: Ward 16 Rajesh Kumar Gupta