Congress gets jitters before crucial Chandigarh mayor polls

By Jaideep Sarin, IANS
Thursday, December 30, 2010

CHANDIGARH - The Congress is having a tough time in the Chandigarh mayor elections as it is not only facing a challenge from the opposition parties, but also from a rebel candidate who quit the party and filed his nomination papers as an Independent candidate.

Rebel Jagjit Singh Kang quit the Congress party Monday after the party did not not make him official candidate for the Jan 1 polls.

Chandigarh is the parliamentary seat of union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal. Ironically, Kang is considered close to Bansal and his family.

The official Congress candidate, councillor Ravinder Pal Singh, faces a tougher challenge as Kang could split the party votes.

Though the Congress cannot officially issue a whip to its councilors in the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation, it is trying to project an image that Kangs antics will not affect the chances of its mayoral candidate.

The election of the mayor is crucial for the Congress and others as this is the last year of the corporations term and the incumbent mayor will lead the party for the election of the next corporation to be held December 2011.

With Kang joining the fray as an Independent, the election of the mayors post has become a triangular contest. Ravinder Pal Singh of the Congress and Rajesh Gupta of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are already in the field. The election to the posts of senior deputy mayor and the deputy mayor will also be held simultaneously.

The Congress, on paper, has 17 votes. This includes 16 councillors and union minister Bansal himself, being the local MP.

Among the opposition parties, the BJP has eight councillors, and one each is from the Akali Dal and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

The fortunes of the mayoral aspirants also hinge on which way the nine nominated councillors, who also have the right to vote, go. At present, some of the nominated councillors owe their allegiance to the Congress while some are rooting for Kang.

Outgoing mayor Anu Chatrath, who is also from the Congress, said Kang’s decision to leave the Congress and enter the electoral fray as a rebel was a hasty one.

He (Kang) took the decision to leave the Congress in haste. His family has 30-year-old relations with the Congress. He should return to the party. As councillors, it is our duty to respect the decision of senior leaders. Next year is crucial, being an election year (for the corporation), Chatrath said here.

But Kang, who wrote his resignation letter to party president Sonia Gandhi and even levelled serious corruption charges against some Congress councillors, was adamant Thursday on not returning to the Congress fold.

There are no chances of my return to the Congress. Though I respect Pawan Kumar Bansal a lot, I do not want to return to the Congress, Kang said here.

Hectic parleys are on in the Congress to keep the partys flock together. Bansal called a meeting of the Congress councillors Tuesday and asked them to remain united and not to indulge in anti-party activities.

The BJP and the Akali Dal, wanting to cash in on the situation, are quietly trying to support Kang. They are even trying to rope in some of the nominated councillors who are not very happy with the official candidate put up by the Congress.

Congress candidate Ravinder Pal Singh had last year slapped an official of the corporation after his work was not done. Singh has been deputy mayor of the city.

Singh, a first time councillor, was nominated ahead of senior Congress leader Chander Mukhi Sharma, whose claim to the mayors post was overlooked by the party despite his seniority and active work. His nomination has ruffled a few feathers in the Congress fold too.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at [email protected])

Filed under: Politics

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