The near-clean sweep by the BJP-SAD combine in Chandigarh’s civic body elections has the Congress in Punjab worried though it did find a silver lining — the three seats it won were all against the SAD, its main rival in a state that is heading for assembly elections.
The BJP-SAD rose from 12 seats in 2011 to 21 seats this time, with the BJP doubling its tally from 10 to 20. They contested the same number of seats as last time, the BJP 22 and the SAD the remaining four in the 26-member council.
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A victory in the civic polls in Punjab’s capital would have given the Congress cadre the morale-booster they needed for the hard slog of the Punjab campaign. Instead, the results ended up dampening spirits in the party.
Once the trends started emerging Tuesday morning, state Congress leaders showed their shock and disbelief. While some blamed groupism in the Chandigarh unit, other called for a revamp of the unit.
“We were hoping we would be number one. But that has not happened. It is a bad sign,” said one Punjab Congress leader. The Punjab Congress is yet to issue a statement on the results.
“But the Congress has won most of the seats where the SAD fielded candidates,” the leader said. “This clearly means people prefer the Congress to the SAD which is significant, as the BJP has not much of a presence in Punjab.”
Much of the Congress’s hopes had rested on public anger against demonetisation. Party members now said that their campaign against demonestisation had failed because Chandigarh’s mostly middle-class citizenry is already plugged into a cashless economy, and is not undergoing the hardships that people are in other parts of the country, including in Punjab.
“It appears that people in Chandigarh, who comprise mostly middle class, did not have much of an issue with demonetisation. That is not the case in Punjab,” said Kuljit Nagra, Congress MLA from Fatehgarh Sahib. He asserted that the Congress was “way ahead than any other party”.
The Aam Aadmi Party, which will contest the assembly polls, described the civic poll results as the failure of the Congress to provide an alternative to the people. “This is not the scenario in Punjab, where we will be a third force,” said Sukhpal Khaira, AAP spokesperson.
“People are sick of SAD-BJP and Congress alike. But there they went for the lesser evil as they did not have a choice.”