With less than 24 hours to go for the mayoral elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has 20 councillors in the 26-member General House, called a meeting of its councillors and made them promise to vote for the official candidate, Rajesh Kalia. Rebel candidate, BJP Councillor Satish Kainth, who was conspicuous by his absence at the meeting, refused to withdraw his nomination.
Congress, which has fielded Sheela Devi as its candidate, said it will “wait and watch”. The elections will be held at the Municipal Corporation (MC) Chandigarh building at 3 pm on Friday. Member of Parliament Kirron Kher and General Secretary, Organisation, Dinesh Kumar convened a meeting of the 20 councillors and asked them to pledge their loyalty to the party in the elections. The meeting was also attended by SAD leader Hardeep Singh.
Sources said the councillors were told “one small mistake in the election can affect the image of the party at the national level, and could matter a lot in the 2019 elections.” Putting all speculations to rest, the party leaders informed the councillors that “Rajesh Kalia will remain the official candidate and will not withdraw his name.”
After Kainth had filed an independent nomination and Kalia’s criminal background became public, there were speculations that he might withdraw his nomination. The Bharatiya Janata Party leaders are likely to make efforts till 3 pm Friday to make rebel Kainth withdraw his nomination.
A senior leader on the condition of anonymity said talks are on. “We are very hopeful that Kainth may withdraw his nomination before the election tomorrow (Friday).” Kainth, however, remained firm on Thursday and said that he will win as he had the support of 17 councillors.
If the BJP’s last-minute efforts do not work, the contest will be between Kainth and Kalia. In any case, city will get a mayor with a criminal background. Of the 26 elected councillors, the BJP has a majority in the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation with 20 councillors. There are four Congress councillors, one Independent, while one is from SAD, which is in an alliance with the BJP.
A mayor holds a one-year term in Chandigarh. The post for the mayor this time is reserved for a Scheduled Caste candidate, while those of senior deputy mayor and deputy mayor are open for all. A mayor is elected from amongst the elected representatives in the General House. 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 Member of Parliament Kher who is the ex-officio member of the House.