New regime: Rintu, Bittu are mayors of Amritsar, Patiala
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New regime: Rintu, Bittu are mayors of Amritsar, Patiala

New regime: Amid boycott by Sidhu and his loyalists, holy city gets first Sikh mayor; royal city sees rise of Preneet’s loyalists amid rare bonhomie.

punjab Updated: Jan 24, 2018 10:23 IST
Anil Sharma and Vishal Rambani
Anil Sharma and Vishal Rambani
Hindustan Times, Amritsar/Patiala
Rintu,Bittu,Karamjit Singh Rintu
Karamjit Singh Rintu(left) and Sanjiv Singh Bittu. (HT Photo)

Even as local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and 17 councillors with him skipped the first meeting of the newly elected House of the municipal corporation (MC) in Amritsar, Karamjit Singh Rintu, 45, of the Congress was elected mayor on Tuesday, becoming the first Sikh among seven mayors of the holy city since the corporation was formed in 1991.

In Patiala, Sanjiv Sharma Bittu, 44, of the Congress was unanimously chosen as the fifth mayor of the city. Here, chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh, being the local MLA, is a member of the MC, though he was not present. Yoginder Singh Yogi — a first-time councillor who is known, like Bittu, to be in the camp of former local MP and the CM’s wife Preneet Kaur — was elected as senior deputy mayor, and Vinti Sangar, a councillor from the Schedule Castes category, became deputy mayor.

Sidhu’s boycott from Amritsar mayoral polls extracts a ‘sorry’, but casts shadow on Jalandhar too

Sanjiv Sharma Bittu, 44, is a well-known loyalist of former Union minister Preneet Kaur, and remained leader of opposition in the previous House of Patiala MC.

Jalandhar will choose its mayoral incumbents on January 25.

The MC in Amritsar chose Raman Bakshi as senior deputy mayor and Younis Kumar as deputy mayor, thus giving representation to Hindu and Dalit communities too. Rintu is the first full-time Sikh mayor of Amritsar, though it must be underlined that Lakha Singh Gumtala, the then senior deputy mayor, acted as officiating mayor for a month in 2000 for a city known to be the religious capital of the Sikhs.

As for why Sidhu and his supporters skipped the meeting, he had already expressed his feelings over not being “invited” for the meeting while interacting with the media on Monday. He wanted to consulted for choosing mayors of the three MCs that saw elections on December 17, it is learnt.

High command’s call

On Tuesday, the process of mayoral elections for Amritsar began at 11 am. Rural development minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa was outside the House as a party observer. Inside, after a brief meeting attended by 68 councillors — 47 of Congress, 13 of SAD-BJP and eight independents — divisional commissioner Raj Kamal Chaudhari and MC commissioner Sonali Giri administered the oath to councillors.

Immediately after, Amritsar Central MLA OP Soni, who is an ex officio member for being a local MLA, rose and announced the names for mayor, senior deputy mayor and deputy mayor, as decided by the party high command. And the House unanimously accepted the decision. In the first reaction after being elected, Rintu said, “I will do my duty honestly and work hard for the development of the holy city.”

Besides Sidhu and his 17 supporting councillors, Amritsar South MLA Inderbir Singh Bolaria was also not present.

In CM’s city, looking ahead

In Patiala, health minister Brahm Mohindra, who being MLA of Patiala Rural is also a member of the MC, proposed the name of Bittu. And he was announced elected unanimously as Congress has 59 members in the House of 60. The SAD has one councillor.

Karamjit Singh Rintu, 45, is a son of Onkar Kaur, who was councillor for two terms (2002 to 2012).

Unlike Amritsar, where minister Sidhu boycotted the proceedings, Patiala saw rare bonhomie between the camps of Mohindra and Preneet Kaur. The mayoral posts all went to Preneet’s camp as Mohindra announced that he won’t ask for any post for his supporters because it’s Preneet who has to face the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and thus should have her team to garner maximum support. Preneet thanked Mohindra and said that he is the seniormost leader of the party in Patiala.

Bittu formally assumed office in the presence of Preneet and ministers Brahm Mohindra and Sadhu Singh Dharamsot. The party also carried out a victory march in which Bittu and others paid obeisance at various religious places.

Know the mayors: In mother’s footsteps

Patiala: Bittu rises through ranks

Sanjiv Sharma Bittu, 44, is a well-known loyalist of former Union minister Preneet Kaur, and remained leader of opposition in the previous House of Patiala MC. His vocal stance against the SAD-BJP on civic issues got noticed and, in the state Congress rejig before the assembly elections, he was made state chairman of the local bodies cell. He remained the local Youth Congress president from 1996 to 2008. In 2012, amid alleged booth- capturing by the then ruling SAD-BJP, he won his seat. Bittu had dropped out of studies after BA-1. His mother was a councillor in the 2002-07 House, and father a government employee. He joined the party in 1994 and rose through the ranks. As for senior deputy mayor Yoginder Singh Yogi, he is a first-time councillor and is being seen as a surprise choice. Deputy mayor Vinti Sangar, known to have an independent stance even within the party, has been chosen as a woman and Dalit face.

Amritsar: Seventh and ‘first’

Karamjit Singh Rintu, 45, is a son of Onkar Kaur, who was councillor for two terms (2002 to 2012). Rintu contested the 2012 assembly election on the Congress ticket from Amritsar North against former minister Anil Joshi of the BJP . He lost by a significant margin of 16,980 votes. In 2017, the party gave the assembly ticket to former mayor Sunil Dutti who won against Joshi. Rintu did not campaign then. He fought the MC election in December 2017 and became a first-time councillor. He had been promised the mayor’s post, said leaders in the party. He is the seventh mayor of Amritsar, and the first Sikh to get the post full-time. As for senior deputy mayor Raman Bakshi, he started his career with the Youth Congress; won the MC election in 2007 but could not retain his seat in 2012. He won this time as Congress swept the polls. Deputy mayor Younis Kumar is known to be working for the welfare of Dalits since long in Amritsar. He has won four times continuously.

First Published: Jan 24, 2018 10:23 IST