State of parties: Do or die for Congress, prestige battle for BJP in Chandigarh - Hindustan Times
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State of parties: Do or die for Congress, prestige battle for BJP in Chandigarh

Apr 24, 2024 02:24 PM IST

A two-way battle is underway in Chandigarh, where countering Sanjay Tandon’s BJP campaign for the June 1 Lok Sabha election is proving to be a tall order for Congress-AAP candidate Manish Tewari given his rival’s local connect. But both have to contend with bickering in their respective camps.

The stakes are high for the Congress in Chandigarh that has lost to the BJP in the past two consecutive Lok Sabha elections with considerable margins.

This time, the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party are contesting together in Chandigarh as part of the INDIA bloc. Two-time MP Manish Tewari is their candidate. (HT Photo)
This time, the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party are contesting together in Chandigarh as part of the INDIA bloc. Two-time MP Manish Tewari is their candidate. (HT Photo)

This time, the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party are contesting together as part of the INDIA bloc with two-time MP Manish Tewari as their candidate. A strong contender, Tewari is giving a keen fight to the BJP’s debutant nominee, Sanjay Tandon.

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Also read: My family’s blood is mixed with Chandigarh soil: Manish Tewari

Riding on the Narendra Modi wave in 2014, BJP’s Kirron Kher defeated four-time MP Pawan Kumar Bansal by 69,642 votes. In 2019 again, Bansal lost to Kher by 46,970 votes.

This time, the Congress is highlighting Kher’s long absence from the UT, predominantly because of her poor health, claiming she was not available for people when they needed her, particularly in the battle against Covid.

The Congress rout continued in the mayoral polls in 2016 and it failed to win the mayor’s post for seven years till the alliance nominee, Kuldeep Kumar Dhalor of the AAP, won this year after the Supreme Court intervened. The BJP was on the backfoot as returning officer Anil Masih bungled up in counting.

Challenges for Tewari

Countering the BJP campaign when its candidate is local is a challenge, but Tewari also needs to get his house in order to win. With Bansal having been denied the ticket this time, the Congress is fighting infighting. Though Bansal has reiterated his loyalty to the Congress, he is yet to join party meetings in Tewari’s support.

Within three days of the party announcing Tewari candidature, several office-bearers from the Bansal camp, including party secretary Nitin Rai Chauhan, resigned and took to social media to vent their ire.

Another section of party workers are miffed with the working of Chandigarh Congress president HS Lucky. Mahila Congress president Deipa Dubey even held a protest, demanding Lucky’s resignation. Dubey along with 90 loyalists resigned as they were enraged at an Instagram like by Lucky which mocked Bansal for having been denied the ticket. Lucky claimed he did not manage his social media account.

On his part, Tewari is putting up a brave front to revive the party’s connections at the grassroots in colonies and villages, terming it a fight to “save democracy”.

It is part of the alliance’s strategy to target Kher’s unavailability and lack of connect. “The party is together and most of the resignations have been taken back. We are sure to win as everyone is fed up of the Centre’s policies,” says Tewari.

AAP fails to cash in on gains

Riding piggyback on the Congress campaign, the AAP has failed to capitalise on the gains it made in its debut general election in Chandigarh in 2014. Gul Panag led the AAP campaign. She made an instant connect with professionals and youngsters given her defence background and Bollywood connection. Though she ranked third, the AAP secured 1.08 lakh votes of out of 6.1 lakh votes, giving rise to a third front, something the city never witnessed earlier.

The party performed poorly in the 2019 general election in Chandigarh with its candidate late Harmohan Dhawan securing just 13,781 votes out of 6.46 lakh votes.

The 2021 Chandigarh Municipal Corporation polls turned to be a turning point for the party when the AAP secured a majority for the first time in the mayoral elections. The party won all 14 seats and became the single largest party in the council of 35 seats. However, after a cut-throat fight with one AAP vote having been declared invalid, it was the BJP candidate who became the mayor.

This year too, the AAP-Congress combine lost to the BJP despite having the numbers, but the outcome was overturned following the Supreme Court’s intervention.

The Chandigarh AAP co-incharge Dr SS Ahluwalia is confident the combine will register a historic win.

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