The lacklustre campaign in the scorching summer heat for elections to the 65-member Amritsar Municipal Corporation (AMC), which failed to evoke much public participation, came to a close here on Friday evening.
On Saturday, the candidates and their supporters will woo the voters by going to their doorstep. Votes for 64 wards will be cast on Sunday and the results will be out the same evening. On one seat the candidate of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has been elected un-opposed after all other candidates, including that of the Congress, withdrew their nomination papers.
Voters cannot be blamed for not showing much enthusiasm in the elections, which seem a one-sided affair in favour of the ruling SAD-BJP alliance. The blame for this rests with the Congress and its senior leadership for not being able to instill confidence in its workers who are still to recover from the drubbing of the assembly polls, and in the absence of a strong opposition in the field it was but natural for the electors not to show any interest.
It was more of a door-to-door campaign carried out by the candidates and their close supporters, families and relatives. The scorching summer sun also made campaigning almost impossible after noon and the corner meetings or mohalla rallies were held in the early hours or at night.
Cong jolted at start of campaign
The weeklong campaign commenced on a rather negative note for the Congress as it gifted ward No 39 to the Akalis after its candidate along with others withdrew from the contest. Then from ward No 37 the Congress received another jolt with its nominee withdrawing his nomination papers, putting the SAD candidate in a winning position as he now has only independents to contend with.
As if this was not enough, midway through the campaign, its candidate from ward No 14 announced her decision to quit the field and work for the victory of the SAD nominee, who now is up against independents.
These withdrawals were enough to demoralise the rank and file of the Congress besides the candidates. No senior leader of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) tried to visit Amritsar to take stock of the situation and to draw up a strategy to boost the morale of party workers in the wards and infuse some life in the campaign.
PPCC chief Capt Amarinder Singh came calling this week and all he could offer the candidates or workers were hollow assurances that the party would stand by them and would not allow any harm to come to them at the hands of the Akali leaders. Before the media, he alleged that the withdrawal of candidates took place due to the terror unleashed by the Akali leaders.
During his daylong stay in the city, he met candidates and their supporters instead of addressing public rallies in different parts of the city as this would have put some life into his party's campaign and sent a positive message to the workers in each and every ward.
Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Sunil Jakhar, Sangrur MP Vijay Inder Singla and a couple of other leaders did address a couple of rallies in which their focus was on political vendetta. They should have ripped the SAD-BJP alliance apart for its failure in improving the civic amenities in a city, which is visited by lakhs of pilgrims and tourists each day.
Convener for the AMC polls Rana KP and MLAs OP Soni, Raj Kumar, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Tripat
Rajinder Singh Bajwa and Ashwani Sekri and former MLA Jasbir Singh Dimpa did campaign in the city, but again they did not focus on local issues and unfulfilled promises of the SAD-BJP. At the fag end of the campaign they made allegations of bogus voter list being prepared to favour the ruling party.
Full marks to ministers Bikram Singh Majithia and Anil Joshi and MP Navjot Singh Sidhu for the manner in which they led the campaign of the alliance to every nook and corner of the city. Such was the confidence of these leaders that the alliance did not even think of bringing in the chief minister or the deputy chief minister.
The alliance MLAs, especially Navjot Kaur Sidhu and Inderbir Singh Bolaria, put in hard work, and unlike the Congress MLAs, rubbed shoulders with SAD and BJP nominees throughout the campaign. BJP president Ashwani Sharma spent a day here and addressed a couple of rallies.
The opposition may call it arm-twisting but Majithia was able to persuade Congress candidates to withdraw from the contest. In the SGPC polls in September last year, he was able to get six candidates of his party elected un-opposed from the Majha belt.
Like in the assembly polls, the alliance once again highlighted development issues. No fresh promises were made except that only under the SAD-BJP could the holy city attain new heights of development, a promise that was made five years back.
Expulsion of rebels
The only common strategy between the SAD-BJP and the Congress was the action taken against rebels. The BJP expelled 10 rebels for contesting against the official party candidates while SAD expelled three. The Congress chipped in with six.