On a winning spree after Mumbai and Delhi Municipal Corporation, the BJP today created a history of sorts in Shimla winning the civic body polls in the poll-bound state of Himachal Pradesh, causing a big jolt to the incumbent Congress. In the 34-member Shimla Municipal Corporation, one of the country’s oldest civic bodies, the saffron party won 17 wards putting itself much ahead of the Congress’s 12 wards in what has been the grand old party’s stronghold for 32 years.
Among other winners were four independents, two of whom were Congress rebels and one from Communist Party of India (Marxist). The polls were also a blow to the CPM which had led the Corporation for five years after a surprise victory of the party’s Mayor Sanjay Chauhan and Tikender Panwar in the 2012 polls.
This is the first -time in the history of Shimla when the BJP will have its Mayor — a woman from the reserved Scheduled Caste category. The Corporation ‘s new council will have 50 percent women, another feather in Shimla’s cap.
The poll results are considered crucial for the BJP which has already been pinning hopes on returning to power and replacing the Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government, mainly on the issue of corruption targeting the six-time chief minister on his governance model. The BJP, like the Congress, had its share of infighting and factionalism too.
Virbhadra had infact made the poll a matter of prestige as he canceled his other engagements and campaigned through the town’s streets and lanes to see that party-supported candidates win the polls.
A major blow to him also came in Tutu, part of his assembly constituency of Shimla (rural) which went to the BJP beside another key ward of Boileau Ganj, where his son Vikramaditya Singh campaigned. Some of the Congress strongholds in the town and the newly carved peripheral wards were swept either by the BJP or Independents, two of whom were Congress rebels.
Nearly half of the winners are new faces. Prominent among them are Kusum Sadret who could possible be BJP’s face for Mayor’s post along with Dr Kimi Sood, Kiran Bawa, wife of former advocate General and Aarti Chauhan.
Four Independents who were victorious are Rakesh Kumar, Sanjay Parmar, Sharda Chauhan and Rachna. Shaily Sharma is the only CPM-supported candidate who won. Rakesh (who has won from Pantha Ghati has extended support to the BJP while three other Independents are considered Congress loyalists.
The polls were held without party symbols, a new provision which the Congress government had created apparently to avoid embrassment. Later, the ruling regime had also got the elections deferred indefinitely. The BJP however went to the High Court to challenge the decision to defer the polls and it was at the court’s intervention that the State Election Commission was forced to order the polls on June 16. There were total of 126 candidates in the fray.