In spite of emerging as the single largest group in the Mohali Municipal Corporation with 23 seats — only three short of a majority in the 50-member house — the SAD-BJP combine is facing problem in attracting independents, mainly because of personal issues with SAD halqa in-charge Balwant Singh Ramoowalia.
The newly elected corporation has 13 independent members, of whom as many as 10 have pledged their allegiance to Akali rebel Kulwant Singh’s ‘Azad group’. But there is no love lost between Kulwant Singh and Ramoowalia. In fact, Kulwant rebelled when his loyalists were denied the party ticket, allegedly at Ramoowalia’s instance.
While Kulwant Singh has not spelled out his future line, Ramoowalia has explicitly ruled out seeking support from Kulwant Singh and is banking on division in his group.
Two independent candidates without any affiliation, namely Manjit Sethi and Harvinder Kaur Lang, too, are unlikely to join the SAD owing to Sethi’s differences with Ramoowalia, although both are former Akalis.
Said Sethi, “Even though I’m an Akali member by heart, there is no chance of lending support to SAD as long as Ramoowalia is at the helm of affairs, as he has ruined the party.” Sethi shares a good relationship with both Kulwant Singh and Congress MLA Balbir Sidhu, who met him after the results were declared. Even some Akali leaders met him.
Besides Lang, ‘Azad group’ member Ravinder Singh from ward number 38 is also likely to go with Sethi as they share cordial relations.
Differences arose between Sethi and Ramoowalia following the alleged murder of Sethi’s nephew Amarpreet Singh by nine youths over a petty quarrel over parking space in 2013. Ramoowalia allegedly did not support Sethi in the case and even gave a statement against him.
Meanwhile, Rajni Goyal, who has been elected from ward number 34, on Friday clarified that she was not part of the ‘Azad group’, although her name and photograph featured on posters and newspaper advertisements released by the ‘Azad group’ during the election campaign.
“I contested independently and I am not part of any group. I’ll support whoever is chosen by my family and core group of supporters,” said Goyal, a first-time winner.
On the other hand, Karamjeet Kaur from ward number 48, who was not part of the ‘Azad group’ initially, said that she had joined the group now. The others in the group said that they would support any decision taken by Kulwant Singh, who said that their final decision would be taken after due consideration and might take some time.
In spite of these postures of the independents and the Azad group members, Ramoowalia claimed, “Forming a majority is not a worry for us. We just need three more votes and there are only seven members in Kulwant Singh’s group. From the remaining six, getting the support of three councillors will not be difficult.”
Congress MLA Balbir Singh Sidhu said, “The Congress has 15 votes in the house, including my own as an ex- officio member, and we’re open to seeking support from Kulwant Singh’s group.” The party needs the support of 11 more councillors for a majority.