MP report card: Health concerns, delay in projects mark Kirron Kher’s second tenure - Hindustan Times

MP report card: Health concerns, delay in projects mark Kirron Kher’s second tenure

By, Chandigarh
Apr 16, 2024 09:56 AM IST

Five years on, it’s time to shine the spotlight on the performance of Chandigarh MP Kirron Kher, who says she did her best for her constituency despite health challenges. But will her best be good enough for BJP’s Sanjay Tandon as he leads the party’s charge in City Beautiful this time.

MP Kirron Kher, 71, who rode the Narendra Modi wave to Parliament in 2014 and 2019, has opted out of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections on health grounds, while her party colleague Sanjay Tandon leads the BJP charge hoping for a hat-trick in the Union Territory. Though Kher has pledged full support to Tandon, a below-par performance during her second tenure that was riddled with controversies, particularly the Anil Masih fiasco in the recent municipal corporation elections, could queer the pitch him in the June 1 election.

Chandigarh MP Kirron Kher’s second tenure was riddled with controversies, particularly the Anil Masih fiasco in the recent MC elections. (HT File)
Chandigarh MP Kirron Kher’s second tenure was riddled with controversies, particularly the Anil Masih fiasco in the recent MC elections. (HT File)

“Despite my health condition, I gave my best for the development of the city. I tried to complete all pending issues. Now, I will fully support our candidate Sanjay Tandon and make sure he wins from Chandigarh,” Kher said when contacted for her views on her performance. The question is: Will her best be good enough?

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While Chandigarh battled delay in development works due to the Covid pandemic, the actor-turned-politician fought a personal battle against cancer that kept her away from her constituency for months together.

Work in progress

Her political opponents blamed her absence from Chandigarh for the city missing the bus on several opportunities despite her party’s government at the Centre.

Her critics within her party say her prolonged absences hit the cadre’s morale and cite the outcome of the 2021 municipal corporation elections to prove their point. In that election, the BJP won 12 seats, while the Aam Aadmi Party managed to bag 14, the Congress eight and the Shiromani Akali Dal one out of the total 35 seats.

Chandigarh residents are still looking for a way out of the traffic congestion. Her opposing the Metro tooth and nail initially only made matters worse as now the project cost has skyrocketed.

It didn’t help that of the 17 crore allocated under the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS), she spent only 7 crore.

Opposition leaders claim she made 56 promises in her manifesto before the 2019 elections, but failed to do justice to her tenure. Whether it’s problems of traders, the implementation of the industrial policy, the regularisation of construction outside lal dora (village land) limits, ownership rights to dwellers of rehabilitation colonies, the issue of need-based changes in Chandigarh Housing Board and framing a policy, the issue of allowing business-to-consumer (B2C) activities within industrial areas, or the single-window system, the setting up of a film city and abolishing contractual labour, all promises remain on paper.

Counting achievements

Kher’s achievements during her second tenure include the construction of a railway under-bridge at Manimajra, the initiation of the Chandigarh-Ajmer Vande Bharat pilgrimage train, the setting up of state-of-the-art community centres in Sectors 56 and 38 besides five such centres in Sectors 35, 30, 20, 21 and Ram Darbar, the installation of an instant mixed solid waste disposal machine in Sector 49 under the MPLAD fund besides the construction of five government schools in the city.

Kher was instrumental in the construction of the mini sports infrastructure for billiard and snookers at the Sports Complex in Sector 42, Chandigarh; the science and knowledge parks, 65 kids adventure parks and 20 mathematical gardens in government schools to promote experiential learning, information.

Share of controversies

Her tenure had its share of controversies from angry outbursts against opposition councillors, particularly those belonging to the AAP, to the recent mayoral election fiasco that put the BJP on the backfoot. The Supreme Court overturned the results of the Chandigarh mayoral elections on February 20 and put then returning officer Anil Masih on notice for invalidating eight ballots that eventually led to AAP candidate Kuldeep Kumar’s win. The AAP and the Congress had jointly contested the election. Masih’s act became a national embarrassment for the BJP and provided ammunition to the opposition.

In March, she courted another controversy after mayor Kuldeep Kumar of the AAP alleged during a programme at Raj Bhavan that she had sanitised the mic after he finished speaking just because he comes from a lower caste. Though Kher cited health reasons, the mayor announced he was boycotting all events attended by the BJP MP and Chandigarh administrator Banwarilal Purohit.

Constituency primer

Chandigarh is a Union Territory that serves as the capital of Punjab and Haryana and is the first planned city of independent India. From 1952-66, the year Haryana was carved out of Punjab, Chandigarh was the capital of Punjab. The city sent its first member to Parliament, Shrichand Goyal, in 1967.

2019: Kirron Kher (BJP) defeated Pawan Kumar Bansal (Congress) by 46, 970 votes

2014: Kirron Kher (BJP) defeated Pawan Kumar Bansal (Congress) by 69,642 votes

House record (2019-24)

Kher took part in nine debates and raised 106 questions concerning Chandigarh. The questions were related to safety of women, new trains via Chandigarh, door-to-door waste collection, environment, forests, industries, drinking water and housing.

Attendance: 47% (in five years)

National average: 79%

Number of questions posed: 106

Participation in debates: 9

Private member bill: 0

How she spent MPLAD funds (2019-24)

Entitlement: 17 crore

Used: 7 crore

Total works completed:53

Spent on open air gyms, development of parks, installation of LED lights. 1 crore was spent on buying ventilators during pandemic, laying of paver blocks and renovation of government schools.

Opponents’ take

Ten years ago, the BJP won the Chandigarh seat, promising the moon. Now, there is nothing but disappointment. The BJP has no reason to go to the people to seek their mandate again.

Pawan Kumar Bansal, Congress leader and former Union minister

It was a disappointing show. Over the past few years, Kirron Kher was not accessible to the common people of the city. She made 56 promises, but not a single one has been kept.

Dr Sunny Ahluwalia, AAP in-charge, Chandigarh

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    Hillary Victor is a Special Correspondent at Chandigarh. He covers Chandigarh administration, municipal corporation and all political parties.

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