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‘Punjab is ready for change this time’, says Kejriwal as AAP is No.1 in Chandigarh civic poll

AAP won 14 out of 35 seats in the Chandigarh municipal polls, becoming the single largest party, while the BJP lost its majority and was reduced to 12 seats.

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Chandigarh: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Monday registered a stunning debut in the Chandigarh municipal elections, winning 14 of the 35 seats and emerging as the single largest party in the corporation. 

The victory in the union territory is expected to give a fillip to AAP’s prospects in the upcoming assembly elections in Punjab, even though past results don’t suggest any straightforward correlation. 

AAP chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said it was indicative of the “change” that will come in Punjab. “The people of Chandigarh have chosen the honest politics of AAP over corrupt politics. This time, Punjab is ready for change,” he tweeted.

 

The BJP, which had an absolute majority in the corporation, was reduced to 12 seats, with several prominent candidates, including the outgoing mayor and former mayors, losing to AAP candidates. 

While the Congress won eight seats — an improvement on last time — the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), now in alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), continued to be a small player in these elections, with just one seat. 

In terms of vote share, the Congress topped with 29.79 per cent of the vote, followed by the BJP (29.3 per cent) and AAP (27.08 per cent).

With no party having won a majority, the AAP will need to stitch together an alliance with another party to gain control over the corporation. If it does so successfully, it will have five years until the next election to showcase the model of governance that it claims has been hugely successful in Delhi.

A little over 60 per cent of the city’s residents cast their votes in the polls on 24 December.


Also read: How Channi’s appointment as CM has set off a Congress-AAP battle for Dalit votes in Punjab


Indicator for Punjab or not?

The jury is still out on whether the municipal poll results are useful as any sort of litmus test for the upcoming assembly elections. 

In the last Chandigarh municipal elections in 2016, the BJP won 20 of the corporation’s 26 seats at the time, while the Congress won four, and the SAD, then allied with the BJP, won one.

Despite this, the BJP managed to win just two of the 23 seats it contested in the Punjab assembly elections the following year in alliance with the SAD. The SAD itself won only 15 of the 94 assembly seats it contested.

Meanwhile, the Congress, despite its performance in the civic polls, went on to win 77 of the 117 seats in the state assembly.

AAP’s revival, BJP’s loss of face, Congress as kingmaker

Reacting to the win, AAP leader and Delhi MLA Raghav Chadha said this was the victory of the Kejriwal model of governance, and the people of Chandigarh had been waiting for this change for several years now. 

The victory is also significant in terms of AAP’s revival in the city. It had seen its position decline since the 2014 general election, when city-based actor Gul Panag stood as the AAP candidate for Chandigarh’s sole Lok Sabha seat. Fellow actor Kirron Kher of the BJP won that election, while Panag came third with almost 24 per cent of the vote.

However, AAP’s vote share in Chandigarh collapsed in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, when its candidate, veteran politician and party hopper Harmohan Dhawan, got less than 4 per cent of the vote. Kher repeated her victory in 2019 with more than 50 per cent of the vote.

For the BJP, losing control of the municipal corporation is being seen as a serious loss of face. Its sitting mayor, Ravi Kant Sharma, lost his seat, as did former mayors Davesh Moudgil and Rajesh Kalia. Vijay Rana, the party’s candidate in city BJP president Arun Sood’s ward, also lost. Its sitting senior deputy mayor, Maheshinder Singh Sidhu, eked out a win by 11 votes.

Sources in the party said the BJP’s decimation was due to the growing unpopularity of Kher, who has largely been absent from the constituency for the past year due to illness. 

Although it was nowhere near the winning mark, the election results have brought some cheer to the Congress. Its seat tally has doubled from four to eight — which makes it the kingmaker in the corporation, with no party having won a majority. The Congress is expected to tie up with the AAP and vie for either the senior deputy mayor or deputy mayor position.

The newly elected house will elect its mayor, senior deputy mayor and deputy mayor in the days to come. As no party has got a majority, cross-voting among the parties for these positions is expected. The mayor has a one-year term and elections to the post are held annually in early January.

(Edited by Rohan Manoj)


Also read: How Christianity is growing among Mazhabi Sikhs & Valmiki Hindus in Punjab’s villages


 

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