Pandemic blues hit Raj Bala Malik’s term as Chandigarh mayor
At personal front, Malik tested positive for Covid-19 and had to be hospitalised
Covid-19 pandemic overshadowed the one-year term of Raj Bala Malik as the Chandigarh mayor, which ends on January 8. It gave her little chance to prove her mettle.
However, her tenure started on a solid note. Unlike 2019, when a rebel candidate fought against the BJP nominee, this time around the party stood united behind her.
Next came, the ending of the decade-old logjam over the Japyee waste processing plant, as the MC finally decided to take it over.
But, March onwards, pandemic woes hit the MC. Lockdown, spending cuts and revenue loss put Malik’s working style under the scanner, particularly her ability to arrange additional funds from the UT administration. In the coming months, her relationship with the party soured. She came under severe criticism for poor condition of the city roads, water tariff hike and sanitation workers’ strike.
At personal front, Malik tested positive for Covid-19 and had to be hospitalised.
Weakened within party, targeted by public, oppn
After the pandemic, all MC General House meets went virtual. In October, BJP councillors, led by the party’s state chief Arun Sood, demanded a physical meet. Malik had just been discharged from the PGIMER, and going against the party, she again called a virtual meeting. In response, all BJP councillors, except one, boycotted it.
“There was simmering tension between Malik and Sood. At a time when BJP leaders were publicly criticising MC officials, including the commissioner, Malik was considered to be giving more heed to their advice over her own party decisions,” said a party insider, requesting anonymity.
Right on cue, Congress and resident welfare associations also started gunning for the mayor, holding her responsible for the hike of nearly 200% in water tariff. At the same time, MC officials were advising her in favour of the hike, sounding alarm over ₹100 crore losses. In the end, Malik went with her party and a rollback was announced.
Meanwhile, despite having dedicated funds for road repair and maintenance, the works couldn’t take off. First, the pandemic lockdown was attributed as the reason. Then, the monsoon was blamed, and thereafter, onset of winters became the culprit. Leader of opposition Devinder Singh Babla even labelled her as the, “biggest failure” among all city’s mayors.
Things, finally, started looking up
In the last phase of Malik’s term, the MC finally started the long-pending door-to-door collection of segregated waste, though teething problems persist.
“The upgrade of five sewage treatment plants has also started, and material recovery stations started to come up. Several of the MC’s integrated online services were launched,” said Malik, defending her term.
Her fellow BJP councillor Maheshinder Singh Sidhu said: “Despite the pandemic, many development works and pending infrastructure projects were started. Even though, at times, there were differences between MC officials and the party, Malik ensured that these differences were ironed out.”
As Raj Bala Malik’s one-year stint as the Chandigarh mayor nears end, HT looks at various highs and lows during her tenure
MC took over the waste processing plant and started its upgrade
Door-to-door collection of segregated waste kicked off
Several of the MC’s integrated online services were launched
Couldn’t effectively manage differences between party and MC officials
Tenure plagued by water tariff hike row and sanitation workers’ strike
The condition of various roads in the city remained poor