The actual contest in the first-ever Moga Municipal Corporation polls is not between the SAD-BJP alliance and the Congress but between two Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders -- Punjab agriculture minister Tota Singh Moga and local MLA Joginder Pal Jain.
The last Municipal Council elections - before Moga was upgraded to a corporation in 2012 -- were won by the ruling alliance as it had bagged 29 seats, leaving just two in the Congress kitty.
As Tota Singh's son Barjinder Singh Brar, chairman of the Punjab Health Systems Corporation, was denied the ticket to contest in the civic polls, the minister has fielded his close associate, Gurminder Singh Bablu, as an Independent from ward number 35.
Bablu is pitted against Joginder Pal Jain's son Akshit Jain, who is the main contender for the mayor's post.
Keeping in mind the importance of a Hindu face in Moga (a Hindu-dominated constituency), the SAD had played its cards right by clearing the decks for Akshit, but the decision was not acceptable to Tota Singh and his son. The duo had no choice but to bow before the party high command's decision. However, they decided to confront Jain indirectly.
At the same time, BJP leaders in Moga expressed disappointment over the projection of Jain's son as the mayoral candidate. Mohan Lal Sethi, a local BJP leader said, "It was a compromise on the part of the BJP because of the sitting MLA's son. We went with the decision of our alliance partner (SAD), going against the public sentiment," Sethi added.
The scenario is very different in the Congress camp as district party president Darshan Singh Brar, a close associate of state unit president Partap Singh Bajwa, along with another senior leader, Harjot Kamal, have fielded candidates from 30 out of 50 seats.
Requesting anonymity, a Congress leader said, "The party is not even in a mood to fight the MC elections as the Delhi election results have demoralised the workers as well as leaders."
However, the public sentiment for the Aam Admi Party (AAP) is very strong as a large number of AAP supporters wanted the party to contest the civic polls. "The electorate in Delhi has given its verdict and people in Punjab are ready to do so too. The AAP should have availed the chance to confront corruption in the state," said advocate Manjit Kaur.
Stray cattle menace
With no check on the constant increase in the stray cattle population in Moga, more than half-a-dozen people have been seriously injured by bulls in the recent past. Residents from adjoining villages leave their aged cows, buffaloes and bulls on the roads in the wee hours, posing a threat to motorists. The MC has failed to address the problem so far. Interestingly, a public gaushala came up on the land of the Mandi Board adjoining national Highway No 95, but instead of keeping sick, injured or old cows, the gaushala has taken in all the mulching (healthy) cows and started selling milk/milk products. It's a paradox that dozens of sick, injured and old cows can be seen outside the gaushala gates, barred from going inside.
A large number of areas in the city don't have potable water, due to which people are grappling with hepatitis, diarrhoea and gastroenteritis. A majority of the localities are dependent upon motors and submersible pumps to get potable water. Moreover, neither are there any gensets at the water tanks nor ample staff to look after chlorination. Illegal sewerage and water connections remain unchecked, becoming a major cause of contaminated water supply in various localities.
Delayed highway project
Inordinate delay in the Ludhiana-Talwandi highway project has added to the traffic chaos in Moga. The ongoing construction of the overbridge near the bus stand, in addition to the 4-6-laning within the MC limits, has taken its toll on the city traffic. There is no check on buses and trucks as a majority of the drivers park their vehicles on the main road itself. Despite repeated requests from local residents, none of the authorities have ensured that the buses stop inside the bus stand instead of picking and dropping passengers on the roadside. The incomplete overbridge is being used for illegal advertisements, while the unbuilt stretch has led to illegal parking.
The improper drainage system, along with ill-managed garbage disposal, has led to unhygienic conditions even in posh localities of Moga. In the absence of big bins, people dispose of the garbage in every nook and corner of the city. Things worsen during the rains as the city does not have proper drainage; even light showers inundate the city, making it tough for people to commute. The garbage and stagnant water wreak havoc, especially in the low-lying areas.
The narrow streets are in bad shape, while the main roads are in a deplorable condition. It's a bumpy ride on various roads, including Gandhi Road, Lal Singh Road, Akalsar Road, Dosanjh Road and even on NH-95.
Moga, a council for more than two decades, has been a corporation for the past over two years, but still there has been no improvement in the condition of roads.
With inputs from Surinder Mann
Wishlist of citizens
The MC should come up with a foolproof plan to deal with traffic bottlenecks. Also, the city needs a railway overbridge or underbridge to facilitate the smooth flow of traffic.
Dwarkanath Bansal, businessman
The shoddy disposal of garbage should be tackled by the new MC. Seeing the heaps of rotting domestic waste and sewage, there is a dire need to improve sanitation.
Dr Seemant Garg, cardiologist
The MC should take stringent measures against encroachments and stray cattle. Also, the issue of bad roads should be addressed on priority so as to streamline the traffic flow.
Shambhu Nath, president, RTI awareness forum
The slum areas in the city have mushroomed over the years. These should be removed and people living in them be provided with clean dwellings.
Ramesh Grover, president, District Bar Council
Reserved for women: 13
Reserved for SC: 8
Reserved for SC women: 4
Reserved for BC: 2
Total voters: 1.1 lakh
Candidates left in the fray: 230
Ward No 35: SAD candidate Akshit Jain (son of MLA Joginder Pal Jain) versus independent Gurminder Singh Bablu (close associate of agriculture minister Tota Singh)
Ward No 2: Baba Sukhdev Singh Tanny (SAD) versus former district Congress youth president Manjit Singh Mann
Ward No 12: SAD rebel Manjit Singh Dhamo is contesting independently against Munish Kumar of BJP
Ward No 48: Kulwinder Singh Chakkiwala (SAD) versus Akali rebel Manjit Singh Vaid, contesting independently (Vaid is a four-time councillor)
Ward No 7: Narinder Pal Singh Sidhu (SAD) versus Akali rebel Davinder Singh Rania (North American Akali Dal president)