By Vivek Gupta
The BJP on Thursday sprung a major surprise by fielding Hira Negi as its candidate for the mayor’s election, which is scheduled for January 6. She will take on the Congress’s Poonam Sharma.
Currently Senior Deputy Mayor, Negi edged out Asha Jaswal, who was considered the party’s front-runner due to her proximity to the local leadership.
Sources said that Jaswal’s name was dropped in the face of opposition from several councillors who pointed out that she had lost the election in 2012 against the then Congress candidate Raj Bala Malik, who recently joined the BJP.
Moreover, Jaswal also got involved in the controversy surrounding the corporation’s much-criticised “study tour’’ where she had taken along her daughter as well as the daughter of a party worker.
Besides, Chandigarh MP Kirron Kher backed Negi’s candidature due to her clean image and the winnability factor.
Last year, Negi had won the election of Senior Deputy Mayor even when her party did not have enough votes. This time, the BJP is three short of simple majority in spite of three defections from the Congress in recent months.
Party insiders see in Negi’s selection the erosion of the influence of city BJP president Sanjay Tandon vis-a-vis Kher who, even after wining the Lok Sabha election last year, had been having trouble with the local leadership. The differences between Kher and Tandon came to the fore on several occasions.
This time, Kher was so eager for Negi that she conducted a secret ballot to select the candidate in a meeting of party councillors last week. Negi emerged the favourite in the ballot. Further, organising secretary of the party for Punjab and Chandigarh Ajay Jambwal also favoured Negi.
Talking to Chandigarh Newsline, Negi said that the party would win the election with a thumping majority and would usher in a new era of development in the city.
Besides her, the party fielded Rajesh Gupta (Bittu) for senior deputy mayor and Davesh Moudgil for deputy mayor. Moudgil is incumbent deputy mayor.
As expected, the Congress fielded Poonam Sharma. Considered close to city party president B B Behl and ex-MP Pawan Kumar Bansal, she was chosen over Gurbax Rawat who has been declared the party’s candidate for the post of deputy mayor. The party fielded Satish Kumar Kainth for the post of senior deputy mayor.
Sharma told Newsline that if elected, her focus would be to provide basic amenities in colonies, besides developing underground passes and multi-level parking.
Both the Congress and the BJP claimed they would win. Bahl said that even when his party was short of numbers, it would win the election with a handsome majority. “We will manage the required numbers to have our mayor once again,” he said.
Tandon said that the Congress was living in a utopian world. Wherever the party had contested elections in the last one year, the BJP successfully managed to uproot it. “This time, the Chandigarh MC will be made Congress-mukt,” he said.
However, both parties are short of numbers and their hopes rest on nine nominated councillors, who were nominated by the Congress, which is the ruling party. But the nominated councillors now stand divided in their loyalities.
In the House of 35, with one vacancy, the BJP has the support of 15 councillors, including one of the Shiromani Akali Dal and also local Member of Parliament Kher who is an ex-officio member. The Congress has nine members and the BSP two. For winning the election, a candidate will need 18 votes.