New Delhi: Political parties have often resorted to shifting their MLAs to five-star hotels fearing poaching ahead of assembly polls, but the strategy is seemingly being deployed for the first time before civic polls in the BJP-ruled state of Madhya Pradesh.
After suffering key losses in the state last month, the BJP shifted all its 34 councillors of the Gwalior Municipal Corporation to Delhi Tuesday, ahead of the 5 August voting to elect the chairperson of the civic body’s council.
After it lost the mayor’s post after 57 years in Gwalior — a stronghold of Union ministers Jyotiraditya Scindia and Narendra Singh Tomar — the party is not leaving anything to chance to ensure that its chairperson is elected to head the council of corporators.
With Congress candidate Shobha Sikarwar being elected as the Gwalior mayor, the BJP does not want to lose the post of chairperson. The councillors will land in Gwalior on voting day itself.
In the recently concluded municipal elections, the BJP lost 7 out of 16 mayoral posts while the Congress won 5 in its best performance since 1999. Despite its losses, the BJP still holds a majority in almost 80 per cent of municipal corporations and councils in the state.
While the BJP officially denies that it has taken this step fearing a ‘division’ between its councillors, the party unofficially maintains that there is no consensus over the candidate and that differences between the camps of senior leaders led to this decision.
“There are different camps, with each pushing for their own candidate. Naturally, there is likely to be a division. Hence, it was felt that a meeting of all the councillors should be held before the voting and that they should be asked to refrain from cross-voting or it will become embarrassing for the party,” a senior BJP leader told ThePrint.
ThePrint reached out to Kamal Makhijani, BJP’s district president for the Gwalior region. “The councillors have been brought to Delhi because there is a meeting that takes place before the meeting with senior leaders who are busy with the Parliament session and, hence, have not been able to come to Madhya Pradesh. Congress is busy spreading rumours, but our councillors are united and we will win the post easily,” he said.
‘Councillors to go sightseeing’
The councillors will stay in a resort in Haryana and will also go for sightseeing to nearby places. “The meeting with Jyotiraditya Scindia, Narendra Singh Tomar, and other leaders will take place before the voting,” Makhijani said.
Madhya Pradesh BJP spokesperson Hitesh Bajpai said the councillors have gone to meet the senior leaders in Delhi. “There is no political issue in this and the BJP is confident of having its own chairperson in Gwalior.”
In the 66 wards of the Gwalior Municipal Corporation, the BJP has 34 councillors, the Congress 25, the BSP one and 6 are Independents.
“The BJP is scared that its councillors will not vote for its own candidate. It shows it doesn’t trust its own people. Right from Scindia, Tomar — all these leaders have their own people and, hence, there is no consensus over the candidate. We are confident that we will be able to win the elections,” Ajay Yadav, Madhya Pradesh Congress spokesperson, told ThePrint.
ThePrint had earlier reported how the party had lost out the mayor position in Gwalior due to infighting and senior leaders opting for their close aides. “During the mayoral selection process, feedback was shared regarding those who would go on to lose. But the ground feedback was never taken seriously, and senior leaders opted for their close aides and they lost,” said a party functionary.
Sources said the party is concerned about cross-voting from a section of councillors who might not be happy with the choice of the party for the position of the chairperson.
“There has been constant infighting between the senior leaders too and hence there are several camps that have emerged and they can affect the voting patter,” added the leader.
(Edited by Tony Rai)