Mayoral polls: It is split wide open in Chandigarh BJP

Congress upbeat, hopes for cross-voting: Tandon group councillors field Jaswal as Independent against party’s choice Moudgil, denting brute majority in House.

punjab Updated: Jan 04, 2018 13:03 IST
Vivek Gupta
Vivek Gupta
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Mayoral polls,Chandigarh BJP,split wide open
DOUBLE TROUBLE: BJP’s official mayoral candidate Davesh Moudgil (centre) filing nomination along with senior deputy mayor nominee Gurpreet Singh Dhillon (second from right) at the MC office in Chandigarh on Wednesday. He is flanked by senior leader Satya Pal Jain and city BJP chief Sanjay Tandon, whose supporters had just staged a coup. (Keshav Singh/HT)

The simmering tension within the local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) reached its boiling point on Wednesday with a group of councillors owing allegiance to city unit president Sanjay Tandon revolting against the party’s official nominee for the mayoral post, Davesh Moudgil.

They have fielded outgoing mayor Asha Jaswal as an Independent candidate for the election slated on January 9.

Claiming the support of at least 11 party councillors, including Jaswal, Tandon group has also fielded its own nominee for the post of senior deputy post by pitching first-time councillor Ravi Kant Sharma against Gurpreet Singh Dhillon.

Tension was simmering since Moudgil, backed by MP Kirron Kher and senior leaders Satya Pal Jain and Harmohan Dhawan, was emerging the front runner, reducing the chances of Tandon-backed Arun Sood.

Meanwhile, Vinod Aggarwal, who was selected as the party’s official candidate for the post of deputy mayor, also staged a coup by declaring that he had filed his nomination on behalf of Tandon group. The party that has a brute majority in the House, with 20 councillors among 26 elected members, is now reeling under this vertical split, giving some hope to the rival Congress that has only four councillors.

The tension was simmering ever since Moudgil, who was backed by MP Kirron Kher and senior leaders Satya Pal Jain and Harmohan Dhawan, was emerging the front runner, reducing the chances of Tandon-backed Arun Sood.

Even as the Congress fielded its candidate on Tuesday, the BJP remained indecisive. The things came to a head when Moudgil’s candidature got the official stamp after hours of consultation at a meeting chaired by party’s Chandigarh affairs in-charge Prabhat Jha at the UT Guest House on Wednesday afternoon.

But before Moudgil could reach the MC office in Sector 17 to file his nomination papers, Jaswal and Gupta accompanied by Arun Sood and other supporters filed their papers.

However, Tandon — whose supporters had just staged a coup — was seen standing next to Moudgil as he filed his nomination.

Outgoing mayor Asha Jaswal filing her papers, surrounded by rebel BJP councillors. Vinod Aggarwal (second from left), who was the party’s official candidate for the post of deputy mayor, claimed he had filed his nomination on behalf of the rebel group. (Keshav Singh/HT)

Jha overlooked majority view, say rebels

Calling it an “unfortunate” development, Jha said it was least expected from people who had held various posts in the party. Claiming there are still some days left for the elections, Jha said he will discuss the matter with the party high command. BJP organisation secretary Dinesh Kumar, too, said the party’s decision should have been considered supreme.

However, Jaswal and Sood accused Jha of backing a candidate who did not enjoy majority and ignoring Tandon’s recommendations during the meeting. The two claimed they have the backing of at least nine other councillors: Ravi Kant Sharma, Vinod Aggarwal, Rajesh Kumar Gupta, Shakti Parkash Devshali, Satish Kainth, Rajesh Kalia, Bharat Kumar, Sunita Dhawan and Jagtar Singh Jagga.

Jaswal said she was forced to revolt after Jha overlooked the majority view and announced the candidature of Moudgil, who she alleged had favoured companies involved in corrupt deals. The outgoing mayor said she will not back out till the party disqualifies Moudgil and declares her candidature instead.

Meanwhile, Sood alleged Jha had misled the central leadership by finalising the name of a person who had the support of just six councillors.

“As many as 11 councillors recommended my name for the mayor’s post last week,” said Sood. “Even today, 14 councillors told Jha that if my name is not being considered, they are open to support Rakesh Gupta. But he was also overlooked.”

Denying the allegations, Jha said the final names were decided in consultation with Tandon and other core group members. Tandon maintained that he had followed the party high command’s directions.Calling the revolt by his supporters “unfortunate”, he said it should not have happened. “Good sense will prevail,” he said.

First Published: Jan 04, 2018 13:03 IST