A draft notification on delimitation of wards issued by the government this week has set the tone for municipal corporation elections which were due since July 2013, when the term of the previous house of the municipal council expired. The council has been upgraded to a corporation and the number of wards increased from 31 to 50.
Since the municipal limits have not been extended, the wards stand truncated. Although the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claims the delimitation was done by the local bodies department solely on technical basis, political influence is evident from the structure of the wards. Wards have been reserved to keep opponents at a disadvantage. Wards of some potential winners from not only the Congress but also the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) stand reserved for women or scheduled castes.
Every fourth ward has been reserved for women and sources reveal the numbering of the wards was done in such a way that it served the interest of the ruling party without leaving any ground for objections, rendering the affected parties unhappy.
Concerns about the same were raised by some members at the meeting of the SAD held here on Friday evening. Prospective candidates expressed their dismay at the lackadaisical approach of the district leadership and said the party should have intervened at the appropriate time to guard the interest of its candidates.
Sparks are bound to fly at the time of allotment of tickets. Although the SAD and the BJP are likely to contest the elections jointly, seat sharing is going to be a tumultuous affair.
In the previous house of 31, SAD had nine councillors while BJP had 11. Post delimitation, the number of BJP dominated wards has increased which is bound to create a tussle between the alliance partners.
Resentment also prevails in the Congress quarters against BJP's alleged high-handedness, even though district president and local MLA Sunder Sham Arora did not point to any serious inconsistency.
"There are irregularities in the delimitation but we will respond by giving a sound defeat to the ruling party. The ward numbering has been done arbitrarily and house numbers were not mentioned in the ward map at the time of restructuring of wards," he said. The task of delimitation should have been given to a neutral agency, he added.
District BJP president and former municipal council president Shiv Sood, however, rubbished allegations of political interference. "The BJP had no role in the delimitation process which was conducted by the officials in a transparent manner. If anybody had objections, he could have raised the same before the authorities concerned. If we were to assert ourselves, my own ward would not have been reserved for women," said Sood.
Of the 50 wards, 13 have been reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs), two for Backward Classes (BCs), 12 for women and the rest for men. Ward numbers 1,4,7,13,19,28,31,34,37,40,43 and 46 are reserved for women; 24 and 26 for BCs; 10, 16, 22, 25,and 49 for SC women; 9, 15, 17, 18, 20, 30, 48 and 50 for SC men and the rest for men in the general category.
The government has invited objections and suggestions by October 29 but the exercise is likely to prove a mere formality as the delimitation committee members, who include members of the opposition, have already given their assent to the draft notification.