Updated: December 28, 2021 8:07:10 am
In a massive boost for the Aam Aadmi Party ahead of the Assembly elections in Punjab, it won 14 of the 35 municipal wards in Chandigarh, a city administered by the Centre, results for which were declared on Monday. The BJP, which had swept the last Chandigarh Municipal Corporation polls winning 21 of 26 wards (one of them in alliance with the Akali Dal), ended second, with 12 wards.
The Congress won eight wards and the Akali Dal 1.
The number of wards went up from 26 last time to 35 now after delimitation.
While AAP needs the support of 19 corporators to elect its mayor, the BJP needs 18 as the Chandigarh MP, who has an ex-officio vote in the corporation, belongs to the BJP.
AAP managed to trump the BJP despite fielding first-timers and running a low-key campaign. Only two big names turned out for AAP, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and MP Bhagwant Maan, putting in brief appearances.
The BJP in contrast roped in Union ministers as well as several of its chief ministers to canvass for its nominees, and sought votes in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, many of its bigwigs ended up losing to AAP first-timers.
Sitting BJP Mayor Ravi Kant Sharma lost to AAP’s Damanpreet Singh from Ward 17 by 828 votes. Other former mayors of the BJP and its sitting councillors also lost to AAP newcomers.
In seven wards, the victory margin was less than 200 votes. The BJP scraped through in two wards by a margin of 9 and 90 votes, while in three, it lost by a margin of less than 100 votes.
The Congress, which hoped to have gained some ground after Amarinder Singh’s exit with its smart choice of Charanjit Singh Channi as CM, will be disappointed.
In terms of vote share, AAP got 40%, compared to the BJP’s 34% and the Congress’s 23%. It means the BJP vote share fell by more than half from 2016 (77%). The Congress gained by 8% from last time. The Akalis got 3% votes this time, down 1% from 2016.
The tally also showed that parties failed to gauge the silent mood in favour of change. The BJP, in particular, may have miscalculated by centering its campaign around the theme of Hindutva, with Jai Shri Ram slogans and references to Ayodhya temple peppering its campaign. Till the very end, senior leaders were upbeat, asserting that the ruling party at the Centre always had an edge in the Chandigarh civic poll elections. The BJP even had packets of sweets ready in offices.
The BJP might have also underestimated the anger against it over the farmers’ agitation. Chandigarh saw robust support for farmers, with Matka Chowk emerging as an epicentre for protests. The new Chandigarh corporation limits include 13 more villages, and the support for farmers was even greater in the rural areas.
The women and SC voters also appear to have turned away from the BJP. Of the 7 SC wards, the BJP won only 1. Of the 12 wards reserved for women, the BJP won 2.
Arvind Kejriwal said the civic poll results were “a sign of the coming change in Punjab”. “People of Chandigarh today have chosen the honest politics of AAP, rejecting corrupt politics.”
Mann said the Lt Governor, MP, Mayor were all from the BJP. “However, the people voted for the new faces fielded by us… The change will be even starker when it comes to the Punjab elections.”
Asked whether AAP would seek the help of the Congress to elect its Mayor, Mann said they would first talk to their corporators.
AAP leader Raghav Chadha said it was the “win of Kejriwal’s model of Delhi governance”, adding: “Chandigarh abhi jhaanki hai… Punjab abhi baaki hai (This is just a glimpse. The main show is yet to start).”
Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia said they were getting feelers from other parties and that AAP would elect a mayor.
The polling percentage this time was 60.73, highest in 25 years.
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