A day before the filing of nominations for the upcoming elections to the post of the mayor, the Chandigarh unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has a majority of 20 councillors in the General House of the municipal corporation, was struggling to finalise a candidate. The elections are indirect. The three posts of mayor, senior deputy mayor and deputy mayor are elected by the House on January 18.
In-charge of Chandigarh party affairs, Prabhat Jha, on Sunday met each of the BJP councillors separately to bridge the factions and multiple claims to the candidacy. Jha was to make an official announcement on the candidate this afternoon but returned to Delhi without making the announcement.
Jha’s separate meeting with party councillors took place in the presence of BJP Chief Sanjay Tandon and Member of Parliament Kirron Kher. With the threat of cross-voting looming over the party in a year when every election is crucial in run up to the Lok Sabha polls, the in-charge of Chandigarh affairs decided to convey the choice of candidates to senior leaders in Delhi first.
Jha said there is no opposition within the party. “It is just that we have taken the view of each councillor and we will convey it to the high command in Delhi, which will give us a go-ahead for the declaration of the name.”
Nominations will be filed on January 14.
BJP Councillor Rajesh Kalia is the front runner for the post of the mayor. Sources said that councillors, owing allegiance to BJP Chief Tandon, suggested Kalia’s name, while those from party leader Satya Pal Jain’s group suggested Satish Kainth and Bharat Kumar’s names.
Sources said that in the meeting, Shiromani Akali Dal’s candidate Hardeep Singh’s name has been proposed by a majority of councillors for the post of senior deputy mayor, while for deputy mayor’s post, Kanwarjeet Rana’s name has been suggested.
The mayor’s post is reserved this time for Scheduled Castes (SC). While Sheela Devi is the only SC councillor in the Congress and is almost certain to be fielded by her party, four BJP councillors are vying for the nomination ? Kainth, Kumar, Farmila and Kalia.
The BJP councillors have been told in the meeting to stand united irrespective of who is declared the official candidate as every poll is crucial for the party this time. In cross-voting last year, BJP Councillor Heera Negi lost the seat of Finance and Contract Committee to Congress’ Devinder Singh Babla. In 2015, despite the BJP having 14 elected councillors and Congress nine, Congress part’s candidate Poonam Sharma won the mayoral polls.
To become a mayor, a candidate needs 14 votes out of 27. The nine nominated councillors do not have voting rights. One vote is that of MP Kher who is the ex-officio member of the House. There are four Congress councillors, one Independent, while one SAD, which is in alliance with the BJP.