Continuing its stellar performance in Mumbai and victory in Delhi Municipal Corporation polls, BJP-backed candidates Saturday won a majority in the Shimla Municipal Corporation for the first time, giving a jolt to the ruling Congress in Himachal Pradesh where Assembly polls are scheduled towards the end of this year. The voting for MC polls was held on Friday. Shimla Municipal Corporation polls were held first in 1986.
During the 31 years since then, it has been a Congress stronghold, except the last five years during which the CPM ruled the civic body following its surprise victory in 2012. This time, Shimla MC polls were officially held without party symbols, though each party released a list of candidates they were backing after they had filed their nominations. In the results announced Saturday, BJP-backed candidates won 17 seats in the the 34-member House, much ahead of Congress’s 12.
Among the rest five winners are four independents, two of them Congress rebels, and one CPM candidate. The results have also come as a blow for the CPM, which led the Corporation for five years after the surprise victory of the party’s Mayor Sanjay Chauhan and Tikender Panwar in 2012 polls. For the first time in Shimla, the BJP will have its Mayor, who will be a woman from scheduled castes since the post has been reserved thus. In another first, the Corporation ‘s new council will have 50 per cent women as its members.
The poll results were considered crucial for the BJP, which hopes to return to power after the Assembly polls at the end of this year and replace the Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government it has been attacking on the issue of alleged corruption, lack of governance and mafia rule. Virbhadra, serving his fifth term as CM, had made the poll a matter of prestige as he cancelled his other engagements and campaigned through town’s streets and lanes to ensure victory for his party-supported candidates.
A personal blow to him also came in Tutu ward, which is part of his Assembly constituency of Shimla (Rural) and went to the BJP-backed candidate. Another blow was Boileau Ganj ward, where his son Vikramaditya Singh campaigned. Nearly half of the winners are new faces. Prominent of them are Kusum Sadret, who could be BJP’s face for the Mayor’s post, Dr Kimi Sood, Kiran Bawa, wife of former Advocate General, and Aarti Chauhan. Four Independents are Rakesh Kumar, Sanjay Parmar, Sharda Chauhan and Rachna. Shaily Sharma is the only CPM-supported candidate who has won. Rakesh, who has won from Pantha Ghati, has extended support to BJP while other three Independents are considered Congress loyalists. There were a total of 126 candidates in the fray.