Chandigarh mayor’s election generates heat and dustBy Jaideep Sarin, IANS
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
CHANDIGARH - Chandigarh’s mayoral election is generating a lot of political heat after the Congress candidate won the poll by a controversial single vote.
Congress candidate Ravinder Pal Singh won by one vote.
The opposition parties, mainly the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Akali Dal, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and a Congress rebel, Jagjit Singh Kang, who lost the mayor’s election by the single vote, have announced that they would move the court to get the result of the mayoral election set aside.
They are also seeking a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the election.
Kang was first declared elected as the mayor by the returning officer, Kuldip Singh Chandpuri. But within minutes, Chandpuri changed the result and declared Ravinder Pal Singh as the winner.
The issues being raised by the opposition parties include the sudden change in the name of the successful candidate soon after counting of votes in the mayoral election.
The BJP has accused the Congress leadership, particularly Chandigarh MP and union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, of “murder of democracy, fraud on the constitution and rape of the principle of secrecy of vote”.
The main opposition party said that Bansal and Congress councillors flouted the direction of the returning officer asking them not to carry mobile phones with cameras to the voting chamber to cast their vote.
“The Congress leadership does not trust its councillors. It knew that if the Congress councillors voted according to their conscience, the party (Congress) would have lost. That is why they asked their councillors to click pictures of their cast vote on the ballot paper and bring it back as a proof to show that they voted for the party candidate,” former Chandigarh MP and BJP’s national legal cell in-charge Satya Pal Jain told IANS here.
Bansal, who specially came to cast his vote in the Jan 1 mayor’s election, defied the returning officer who had announced before voting that no mobiles with cameras should be taken inside the voting chamber.
“There is no such rule in the Municipal Corporation Act that prevents anyone from carrying a mobile. I will carry my phone,” Bansal announced inside the corporation house just before casting his vote.
BJP leaders now say that each of the Congress councillors was later called to a hotel owned by Chandigarh Territorial Congress Committee (CTCC) president B.B. Bahl and asked to furnish proof of their vote through the picture clicked through their mobile phones.
“The decision amounted to murder of democracy, fraud on the constitution and rape of the principle of secrecy of vote. We have not seen such a blatant flouting of democratic traditions, that too, by a man who is in charge of upholding parliamentary practices,” Jain said.
The mayor’s election this year was crucial to the Congress and the opposition as the civic agency goes for general election in December this year.
“Kang first quit the Congress and is now showing an emotional response to his defeat. The opposition parties are only raking up non-issues to take advantage of the situation. The Congress candidate won clearly in the election,” said senior Congress leader and former Chandigarh mayor Subhash Chawla, a close confidant of Bansal.
Kang, a Congress councillor who revolted against the party and contested as an independent candidate after the Congress failed to field him as the official candidate for mayor’s post, got support from the BJP, the Akali Dal, the BSP and many of the nine nominated councillors.
After the mayor election, Chandpuri, a war-decorated hero (Maha Vir Chakra winner on whose bravery the Bollywood block-buster “Border” was based), had first declared Kang as the victor.
However, he corrected himself within minutes and declared Ravinder Pal Singh of Congress as the winner.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at email@example.com)