Despite it reclaiming the civic body house comfortably, all is not well within the ruling alliance. Local BJP leaders on Friday decided to complain about the "dubious role" played by former mayor Ajit Pal Singh during the latest civic body elections. A day earlier, BJP’s winning candidates had skipped a dinner hosted by rural development minister Surjit Singh Rakhra for the newly elected alliance councillors.
The BJP leaders alleged that Kohli fielded his supporters against their official candidates in at least seven of the 15 wards the party contested.
“Out of the eight wards we lost, we were in a winning position in at least four. But the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) rebel candidates played a key role in our defeat,” said Sandeep Rinwa, state secretary of the BJP and the party’s in charge for the polls in Patiala.
Calling it a foul play and against the coalition dharma, Rinwa said the party would raise this matter in the coordination committee meeting of the SAD-BJP alliance.
He said the party would lodge a formal complaint against Kohli once the SAD chief and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal returned from his foreign visit.
A closer look at the arithmetic that played out in the municipal polls suggests the BJP’s allegations against Kohli are not unfounded.
In ward number 19, BJP’s district president Arun Gupta lost by a margin of 156 votes. Seema Vaid, SAD’s rebel candidate from this ward, polled 173 votes, marring the official candidate’s chances.
In ward number 30, where the BJP candidate lost by a margin of 166 votes, the SAD’s rebel candidate secured more than 350 votes.
In ward number 44, SAD’s rebel candidate Sheela Devi emerged a clear winner, defeating the official alliance candidate from the BJP.
“It’s no coincidence that Sheela is wife of a close confidant of the former mayor,” said a BJP leader.
Similarly, in ward number 16, the official BJP candidate was pushed to a poor fifth position. The BJP’s rebel candidate Pritpal Kaur won this seat. She’s also believed to be close to Kohli.
The BJP leaders are now claiming that all these rebels enjoyed the tacit support of Kohli, and in some cases, Kohli played an active role to defeat the official alliance candidates.
“Not only the former mayor, but also the other SAD leaders of the district as well gave us no support, which become the main reason for the defeat of our candidates,” said Rinwa.
Accusing the dominant partner SAD of hitting at their base, some local BJP leaders said they would not attend any celebratory function till the top leadership looked into the problematic issue.
Arun Gupta, district president of the BJP, said, “In the wards contested by the SAD, they used the police to capture booths to win. But in the wards contested by the BJP, the police was used against our candidates to support the mayor’s candidates.” Kohli was not available for comment, as he was on pilgrimage to Hemkunt Sahib.
A senior SAD leader, on the condition of anonymity, said, “The BJP leaders are levelling false allegations against the former mayor. They don’t want to take the responsibility of the party’s poor performance in the civic elections.”