The alliance of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept the Amritsar municipal corporation (MC) polls leaving the Congress with only four seats, the worst-ever performance of the party here.
The SAD-BJP combine also created history by returning to power in the MC house. Ever since the MC here was formed in 1992, no party has ever returned to power.
The alliance bagged 48 seats in the 65-member House, including one seat where its candidate was declared elected unopposed. It also bettered its 2007 performance when it bagged 32 seats and had to take the support of Independents for taking control of the MC. Independent candidates fared better this time winning 11 wards while the Communist Party of India won one. In the 2007 polls, the Congress got 20 seats and had emerged as the single-largest party in the house.
Residents of 64 wards cast their votes on Sunday, with the SAD candidate from ward number 39 having been declared elected unopposed. While the BJP contested 38 seats and partner SAD, 27 seats, the Congress put up candidates in 63 seats. In ward numbers 39 and 37, the party's candidates withdrew before the polls.
Till the filing of this report, poll results of 63 of the 64 wards had been declared. The result of ward number 3 was awaited due to certain technical reasons.
Considered a party with a strong rural base, the good performance of the SAD in the city surprised many. Bagging a record 24 seats, the SAD has for the first time matched the performance of its partner BJP. In the last MC polls, the Akalis had won from 15 wards while the BJP bagged 17 seats.
If the list of Independents is scanned, the Akalis have outnumbered the BJP. As many as seven to eight Independents are either SAD rebels or close to the party's local leadership. Only two are
BJP rebels and one a Congress rebel.
However, this landslide victory for the alliance was not without its share of hiccups. Mayor and BJP candidate Shwait Malik lost in ward number 24 to greenhorn Gurinder Singh Rishi of the Congress by 496 votes. Malik's defeat is also a setback to local MP Navjot Singh Sidhu, who had handpicked him to head the MC.
Besides the mayor, prominent BJP losers were Sukhdev Singh Chahal and Seema Khanna, wife of Amritsar Improvement Trust chairman Sanjiv Khanna. Like Malik, Chahal and Khanna are close to Sidhu. However, his supporters Damandeep Singh, Simarpreet Kaur Bhatia, Baldev Raj Bagga, Rajesh Honey and Jarnail Singh Dhot won.
As many as 14 candidates handpicked by industries minister Anil Joshi too emerged victorious. Prominent among them are Amandeep Aery, Prabhjit Singh, Sandhya Sikka and Sukhminder Singh Pintoo. Neetu Mahajan, an Independent who defeated Seema Khanna from ward number 9, is also close to Joshi.
Prominent winners in the SAD are Geetinder Kaur Bolaria, wife of chief parliamentary secretary Inderbir Singh Bolaria, Avtar Singh Truckawala, Avinash Jolly, Amarbir Singh Dhot and Amarbir Singh Sandhu. A majority of the SAD candidates were selected by revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia. Congress losers are MC leader of opposition, Ranjan Aggarwal, Mamta Dutta, Raman Bakshi, Sanjiv Tangri and Kulbhushan Duggal, who had never lost an MC poll.