Pathankot MC: No matter who wins, rebels continue to rule

  • Vinay Dhingra, Hindustan Times, Pathankot
  • Updated: Feb 16, 2015 07:44 IST

The district and municipal corporation statuses have not brought much development to this gateway to Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir; where no matter who wins, rebels have always ruled.

Before 2011, when the town was part of Gurdaspur district and governed by a council, rebels dominated the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, much as they do now in the run-up to the maiden municipal corporation contest. Breakup with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is another negative for the ruling BJP, which instead of solving the civic problems, has kept diverting the agenda.

Its biggest threat, the Congress, is yet to learn from the defeat at its hands in the 2012 assembly elections, thanks to a rebel. Not only the dissidents but also the allies are the BJP's problem. The SAD will field own candidates in all wards after demanding 17 of the 50 seats.

The BJP contended that since the Akalis had no influence in the Pathankot belt, they should leave all the seats to it. The state level of the two parties did arrive at a new seat-sharing formula, which left the Akalis 15 seats and required them to support the BJP in the other wards. The saffron party, however, refused to oblige the partner, when its local leaders said they would contest all 15 Akali seats.

As usual, the local BJP has two factions, one loyal to former minister and ex-MLA Mohan Lal and the other backing current legislator Ashwani Sharma, who was state party president during the last assembly elections. Mohan Lal, once face of the BJP in Pathankot, is weakened since Sharma became an MLA. Over the past two years, many of his loyalists of Lal have switched to the Sharma camp, mostly in the past few days after learning that Sharma would call the shots in ticket distribution. A major ticket chunk has gone to Sharma's loyalists indeed, leaving Lal's diehard supporters with only two or three seats in view of their seniority.

The Congress worries include its former legislator Raman Bhalla, who quit as state party treasurer when his close friend and state party president Partap Singh Bajwa didn't accommodate many of his supporters as candidates. So, many Bhalla loyalists have entered the poll arena as independents, a worry not just for the party but also for Bajwa.

The rifts within the BJP and the Congress have confused the voters of Pathankot. Most will find it difficult to make a choice, and in this melee, the independents, most of them old Congressmen or BJP members, might take the contest. This will make a hung house, but give independents and rebels a say in deciding which party rules the MC.

The local people expected a dramatic change after Pathankot was declared a district and nagar council was upgraded to a corporation. They were promised regular funds from Chandigarh for new infrastructure and civic amenities, but even their MLA, Ashwani Sharma, failed to bring any money in spite of his clout.

After Pathankot became a corporation, Sujanpur and Bhoa assembly constituencies came within its limits. While the municipal council had just 33 seats, the corporation has 50, the minimum required.


Waste disposal most required

Locals are fighting to see an end to the problem of garbage disposal, which pricks them daily as they step out of house. Stray animals feed on this waste and the vectors of disease hover over. The MC has to be reminded regularly on telephone to clear overflowing garbage bins. The town also requires a waste management plant.

Stray animals

Stray cattle running into two-wheelers and bulls attacking the commuters have become a menace in the city. A couple of months ago, a campaign began to catch the wandering bulls and release those into the forests of neighbouring Himachal Pradesh. The drive had to be stopped because of the shortage of money.

Bad roads

It will be difficult for commuters to locate a smooth road in the town, for each route is dotted with potholes. Rains wash out the occasional patchwork. Recently, a teenage girl received a serious head injury when her two-wheeler fell into a giant pothole in the middle of a road.

Overflowing sewers

The MC seems to short of sweepers, so not only are the streets dirty but also the sewers remain choked. All day no one responds to the distress calls. The overflowing gutters have caused sewage to leak into drinking-water pipes in some localities though cracks.

Streetlights out of order

The new streetlights installed along many roads are out of order. The supply electricity in summer is erratic and transformers keep overheating and tripping. The old transformers and supply lines need to be replaced.

5 big fights

Ward 36: Congress candidate and city youth party president Rohit Syal versus experienced BJP candidate Gulshan Kumar
Ward 9: Senior BJP leader and district planning board chairman Satish Mahajan versus Anil Kumar of the Congress
Ward 10: BJP mandal president Anil Rampal, who is close to legislator Ashwani Sharma, is taking on popular youth Congress leader Gaurav Wadhera
Ward 6: Congress leader Panna Lal Bhatia, former councilor, is up against BJP leader Nitin Ladi, who quit the Congress recently
Ward 41: Youth Congress leader Amit Mithu versus BJP's Tek Chand.

Total wards: 50

General wards for men: 25
General wards for women: 13
Wards reserved for Backward Classes: 2
Wards reserved for Scheduled Caste men: 6
Wards reserved for Scheduled Caste women: 4
Total voters: 1.42 lakh

Male voters: 74,089
Female voters: 68,142
Candidates left in fray after scrutiny: 237

Citizens' wishlist

Cleanliness is the main issue in this town. The lifting of and disposal of garbage should be the first priority of the new MC house. The garbage needs to be lifted daily from the streets and there should also be a garbage treatment plant build here.
Ashwin Mahajan, trader

I study in a clean Chandigarh and feel bad when I think about the filthy conditions of my hometown. Our roads in Pathankot are bad and not safe to drive on, particularly if you are on a two-wheeler. Waste management is an issue in this gateway to the hills.
Shivam Gulati, student

Besides bad roads, this city unsafe roads. The stray cattle menace remains to be dealt with, and the problem of logjams is multiplying in certain areas. We need more public parks and open spaces where children can play and senior citizens can walk.
Subhash Chander, senior citizen

The town is no longer a subdivision and so deserves a better infrastructure. We also need an administrative complex and a place where all government services are available under one roof. Since Pathankot became a district, funds have dried up.
Umesh Kumar, trader

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