Updated: January 3, 2022 4:27:38 am
The Chandigarh unit of the Congress received a major jolt on Sunday, with newly-elected councillor Harpreet Babla, and her husband Devinder Singh Babla — who is an outgoing councillor — joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the afternoon.
Harpreet Babla’s inclusion in the BJP fold would mean that the party now has 14 (13 councillors and one vote of Chandigarh MP, Kirron Kher, who is from the BJP) as it goes into the Mayoral polls. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), too, has 14 councillors and 14 votes.
On Sunday, Devinder and Harpreet Babla joined the BJP in the presence of the party’s Chandigarh unit chief Arun Sood, Member of Parliament, Kirron Kher, former BJP president, Sanjay Tandon, and Haryana Chief Minister, Manohar Lal Khattar.
Although the the final trigger seems to be Devinder Babla’s Saturday’s fight with Congress Chandigarh chief Subhash Chawla, sources stated that the fight appeared to be stage managed from Babla’s side in order to shift his loyalities. Minutes before the BJP stated that it has to make an official major announcement, the letter of Babla’s expulsion from the Congress was made public by the party. The Congress leadership said that the letter of Babla being expelled had already been printed on Saturday but due to New Year’s day, it got delayed and was officially released on Sunday.
“He had assaulted me and such kind of behaviour isn’t tolerated by anyone in the party. He was expelled yesterday (Saturday) itself,” Congress Chief Subhash Chawla said.
Reacting to Devinder Babla joining the BJP, Chawla said, “When Babla ji had already made up his mind to shift his loyalties to the BJP, then what was the need to indulge in that (the fight). I was literally assaulted by him. He seems to have been directed by the BJP leadership to do the same. His assault was wrong. I did complain to the high command on Saturday itself and the letter of his explusion had come by the evening.”
Prodded about whether the Bablas had moved to the BJP so that Harpreet could run for Mayor, Chawla said, “Yes, this seems to be one of the reasons. WHy else would they go to the BJP just before the polls.”
Contacted, Devinder Babla, however, had a different explanation. “I had been trying to contact party chief Subhash Chawla to tell him that he needs to motivate the workers of Congress who had lost in the elections. But, he didn’t take my calls. I was trying to talk to him about the welfare of party workers, but he just didn’t seem to care. Yesterday (Saturday), when I saw him I just remidned him that he had been ignoring my calls. AT this, he turned defensive and said things like he was not bound to take calls from me,” Babla said.
Devinder added that the Congress now was a sinking ship. “The Congress in Chandigarh is now a sinking ship and I would have drowned with it. Harpreet and I want to work for the people of our ward and we thought since the BJP is in power in the the Centre also, we should join them and make our ward more beautiful and help our people.”
Devinder Babla had joined the Congress in 1999. He was with the Samajwadi Janta party before that, working with SP leader Harmohan Dhawan.
About Harpreet’s Mayoral candidature, he said, “No there isn’t any talks regarding that as of now. Our joining was completely unconditional. We will abide by whatever the party decides.”
BJP leaders, on the other hand, said that whatever votes Babla got in his ward were all because of his love among the people and not the party. Harpreet Babla said that she has seen the works done by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ideology had made her shift to the saffron party.
Prodded about if or not the people who voted for him would be disappointed, Devinder said the votes he got were due to his developmental works and the party didn’t matter.
Further, taking a dig at Congress Chief Subhash Chawla’s son defeat in the polls too, Babla said, “You can think about the state of affairs in the UT when the Congress chief couldn’t even esnure his son’s victory too”.
WHAT LED TO THE SHIFT OF BABLA COUPLE?
Devinder Babla, sources said, was being sidelined. Devinder was already upset with the fact that he was sidelined and did not get a ticket. Babla was seeking a ticket from sectors 18, 19 or 21 and had assured the party of a victory. However, he was not given a ticket. Instead, along with Babla’s wife, his sister Balwinder — with whom he has tense relations — were given tickets.
Devinder was also upset that his wife, Harpreet, was not being projected as the party’s Mayoral candidate. Instead, the Congress seemed to be leaning towards Gurbax Rawat, while simultaneously sidelining Harpreet as dates for the Mayoral elections approached.
Sources also said that in the last five years, Devinder Babla had been emerging as the face of Congress. He had become a strong leader in the party and at times also emerged stronger than the state party chief. Him being sidelined, after such posturing, didn’t go down well with the Congress veteran.
Also, Devinder Babla’s accessibility in his ward and being vocal on issues of the city had brought him recognition in the last five years. Before the polls, he was being projected as a brand larger than the party itself. He didn’t call for any national leaders during his wife’s campaign as he thought he alone was enough to sway votes in her favour. And he did.
Lastly, sources said. Babla didn’t any future in the Congress, despite working a lot and being active in the House.
BJP vs AAP for Mayoral polls now
Both the BJP and Aam Aadmi Party now have 14 votes each in a 36 member house (one vote of Chandigarh MP). One vote is that of the Akali dal and seven votes are of Congress.
Sources stated that if BJP projects Harpreet as it’s Mayoral candidate, Congress may form an atactical alliance with and lend their support to the AAP.
Sources further stated that after the Bablas left the party, the Congress had become the deciding factor in the Mayoral polls and, th eparty might just make it personal and side with the AAP so that they can ensure Harpreet Babla’s defeat.
WILL HARPREET BE BJP’S MAYORAL CANDIDATE?
This time the Mayoral has to be a woman. And the BJP has only two women councillors, both of who are not experienced enough to become Mayor. With Harpreet joining the BJP, that equation may change and the party may make Harpreet as it’s Mayoral candidate.
Harpreet has been the councillor in 2001, when she fought and won on an independent ticket. The BJP’s two other choices — councillors Bimla Dubey and Sarabjit Kaur — are first timers. Both Bimla and Sarabjit are wives of BJP councillors Anil Dubey and Jagtar Jagga, respectively.
BJP Chief Arun Sood said, “Harpreet’s joining was completely unconditional. Once the date for Mayoral elections are announced, the decision will be taken by party high command.”
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