It will be BJP vs BJP in the Mayor elections this year. The party’s Chandigarh unit announced Rajesh Kalia, 46, as their official candidate for the post of Mayor, triggering a revolt within the party. Mayor elections, which are indirect, are scheduled to take place on January 18.
Of 26 elected councillors, BJP has a majority in the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation with 20 councillors in the general house. Four are Congress councillors, one councillor is an Independent while one is from SAD, which is in alliance with the BJP. A Mayor holds a one-year term in Chandigarh.
The post of 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 among 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 Kirron Kher, ex-officio member of the House.
The Congress has fielded Sheela Devi as their mayoral candidate. For the post of senior deputy mayor, Gurbax Rawat and that for deputy mayor, Ravinder Kaur has been fielded. All three filed their nominations. BJP’s candidate Kalia, too, filed nominations with Member of Parliament Kirron Kher and fellow councillors. For the post of Senior Deputy Mayor, SAD councillor Hardeep Singh has been fielded while that for Deputy Mayor, BJP’s youngest councillor Kanwarjeet Rana has been fielded.
Kalia, who has been a garbage collector in the past, said, “I am thankful to the party for reposing faith in me.” Kalia joined the RSS in 1984 and started working for BJP from 1996. He contested his first civic polls in 2011 from Dadumajra but lost to the Congress candidate. In 2016, he again contested polls and was elected as councillor from ward 7.
“I used to collect garbage from Dadumajra along with my father. Later I started working for the party. After I lost MC polls in 2011, I was disappointed but when (Narendra) Modi ji came to power in 2014 and showed how a tea-seller could be Prime Minister..that inspired me and I contested again in 2016 and won,” Kalia said.
About another BJP councillor, Satish Kainth, filing nomination as an Independent candidate, he said, “Ghar ka maamla hai… ek parivar mein narazgi ho jaati hai. Bade bhai hai, woh mere maan jayenge.”
Originally from the camp of BJP Chandigarh unit chief Sanjay Tandon, Kalia had even got the support of MP Kirron Kher this time. In the meeting held with in-charge of Chandigarh affairs and BJP leader Prabhat Jha on Sunday, sources said both Tandon and Kher had agreed on Kalia as the candidate. Tandon was unavailable for comment.
Kalia had courted controversy when he had a tiff with a Medical Officer of Health. Kalia had alleged that he was pushed by the official in the latter’s office. The official was later repatriated to his parent cadre.
Kalia is from the Valmiki community and has raised the issues faced by garbage collectors in the House several times when the issue of the corporation taking over garbage collection came up. A senior party leader pointed out that a large chunk of votes in the city were Valmiki votes.