Municipal polls likely in August: Navjot Singh Sidhu
Local bodies minister Navjot Sidhu and Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar on Tuesday held a meeting with Congress MLAs of municipal councils and nagar panchayats where elections are due by August.punjab Updated: May 24, 2017 08:39 IST
Not yet battle-ready for the municipal elections, the Congress government will opt for holding polls to the four municipal corporations, municipal councils and nagar panchayats, whose term expires between June and September, in the first week of August.
Local bodies minister Navjot Sidhu and Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar on Tuesday held a meeting with Congress MLAs of municipal councils and nagar panchayats where elections are due by August.
The MLAs highlighted various civic issues from no streetlights, contaminated drinking water and poor sewerage and the general consensus was that the elections of four municipal corporations — Patiala, Ludhiana, Amritsar and Jalandhar, whose term expires in September — be clubbed with municipal councils and nagar panchayats where elections are due in June, July and August. The government will appoint administrators to take over the functioning of these local bodies after expiry of their term till a new house is constituted.
Not very confident of its report card in the last two months, the government wants to first fulfil at least some of the many promises it made in its election manifesto in the budget to be presented in June. The local government department of Sidhu too has planned an operation clean-up in cities under which chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh will flag off sewerage cleaning machines this week.
Sidhu said he would soon meet the CM to finalise the dates for the elections. “The feasible option is to hold the municipal polls in August. Also it would be financially prudent to club the corporation and council elections. We also need one month period to invite and address objections,” Sidhu told HT.
It is Sidhu’s local government department that would be crucial in shaping the verdict in civic polls that would be seen as the first referendum on the Congress government after its victory in the state polls. Accusing the Akalis of making Punjab “an urban mess” in 10 years of their rule, Sidhu said 90% of drains in Punjab’s cities and towns will get choked during rains and the CM will soon flag off sewerage machines to clean sewers.
The minister is already building up tempo for civic polls by highlighting the many acts of “commission and omission” of the previous government.
“We have a lot to redeem. The Akalis siphoned off all the money for urban areas through the Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB). The central grants did not reach us as the state government did not contribute its share, be it for fire tenders, smart cities or e-governance. But we need time to do the damage-control. We are telling people our intent is to change the face of our cities and towns and end corruption,” he said.
Jakhar too said the Congress will make the “criminal neglect” of urban areas the poll plank for civic polls. “The cities and towns are a cesspool. The slogans of previous government have been exposed by the stigma of our cities and towns being ranked among the worst in government cleanliness surveys,” he said.
On fedback from MLAs, Jakhar said they are impatient as they have suffered for 10 years. “People too vent their frustration with the system and behaviour of government officials before the MLAs. We are trying to know their mood and problems and will give a feedback about the issues raised by them to the government. Our candidates will not be chosen just on winnablity but they would also reflect the ideology of our party — that there is a change in the governance of Punjab,” he said.